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Q & A WITH / RED McCOMBS

Vikings in 'Play' in L.A. Team Talk

October 10, 2003|RED McCOMBS | Times Staff Writer

The Minnesota Vikings are 5-0 and have exceeded even the expectations of owner Red McCombs, who envisioned a three-year plan when he hired Mike Tice before last season.

But to the disappointment of McCombs, the team doesn't have a new stadium, and there are no firm plans for one on the horizon. For that reason, McCombs can't say for sure how much longer he will stick around as an NFL owner.

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Question: When we discussed this last spring, you seemed only moderately hopeful you could get a new stadium in Minneapolis. Has that changed?

Answer: We've now moved from the impossible category up to the probable. And probable only because we now have a young governor [Tim Pawlenty] who gets it.

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Q: What do you mean "gets it"?

A: Well, he understands the importance of the Viking program to the state of Minnesota. And if you can't get past that hump, then of course Minnesota -- like all states, including yours -- has lots of needs. So if you can't get past the hump that your NFL team has a lot of importance to the people of your state, well, then you can't get there. Tim gets it. He does understand it.

That doesn't mean we're close to having anything done, because we're not. But he gets it to the point where he understands the significance of the Vikings being there. The second part of that is he understands that without public support, there's not going to be any stadium deal.

So we've gone past the impossible category, and we've passed the possible. I'd say we're up into the probable.

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Q: Does that mean you're taking the team off the sales block?

A: No, it doesn't. My answer to that is very simple: We should have been playing in a new stadium this year. This is my sixth year, and we should have been playing in a new stadium this year. We're not.

Although I think we're in the probable category, someone still has to drive a plan home. Then you have to build a new stadium. I'd say we're still three to four years off, minimum. And I feel like I haven't been able to get that done. I don't know for certain that I can get that done.

It's essential that the Vikings have an opportunity to compete. And that means that they have to have a competing facility.... If somebody comes along and they can give it a better shot, whether it's there or it's relocated somewhere else, I'd say, "Get after it."

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Q: Is the likelihood of getting something done in Los Angeles any higher now?

A: I think that the league has already invested money, as well as their votes.... They intend to go to L.A. I don't think there's any question about that. Just with the money that they put up for the [Carson] option out there, as well as looking at the other possibilities, I think the league definitely intends to go. So you'd have to say that the Vikings are definitely in that play. Having said that, the league also has been not excited about teams relocating.

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Q: We've got a brand new governor. California can't get stadium deals done in San Francisco or San Diego. Oakland's a mess. And obviously L.A. has got a million moving pieces. Beyond the fact that the league is committed to it, what makes you think this will get done in L.A.?

A: You're talking about three-quarters of the load of the owners in the NFL. I would say that, in my six years of being an owner, that is almost impossible to accomplish unless you've got the commissioner supporting whatever that issue is. Do I think we need to be in L.A.? Yes. Do I believe we need to be in L.A. to the point where I would support the Vikings moving there? We haven't crossed that bridge.*

Q: Is it fair to tell cities with older stadiums -- Minneapolis, Indianapolis, New Orleans -- that they have to put up public money, when the league is talking about using its own money to build a stadium in L.A.?

A: That's an interesting question. I haven't even thought about that. But if you look at what is in the best interest of the league, and a guy like [Commissioner Paul] Tagliabue has got to throw his leadership there, I think the answer to that would be, yes, it's fair.... L.A.'s not like the rest of the country. Where else are you going to go get that market?

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Q: With the television deals expiring after the 2005 season, is it urgently important to have the L.A. market?

A: I think it is. I don't know whether you would say "urgently important." I just think in the scheme of things, and looking at how the NFL is absolutely the premier league, you not only have to look at where we are today, but where we're going to be five, 10, 15 years from now.

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Q: There have been rumblings that a sale of the Dodgers could ultimately open the door for a football stadium in Chavez Ravine. What are your thoughts on that?

A: I don't know it well. But I do know it's one of the primo sports sites in the United States. It's a big site. It's got good access.... What would get league owners excited is any really desirable site that could be a done deal.

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