The Minnesota Vikings have tentatively agreed to buy four city blocks for $45 million from Avista Capital Partners, owners of the Star Tribune, as part of a broader plan to build a football stadium and develop surrounding land in downtown Minneapolis, the Star-Tribune and sources close to the sale confirmed Thursday. The Vikings, as part of the transaction, would also have a right of first refusal to later buy the newspaper’s longtime main office building, although that block is not included in the sale. Sources close to the negotiations said the sale could be finalized within days but cautioned it could still unravel.
Though details were sketchy — both the newspaper and the team declined comment Thursday — the sale would give the Vikings four blocks that mainly have been used by the newspaper for surface parking. But the area also includes another large office building and an older warehouse facility. The four blocks have been seen as critical to Vikings owner Zygi Wilf’s plans to build a stadium on the site of the nearby Metrodome, the team’s home since the early 1980s.
The sale has been rumored for months, ever since the team’s high-profile plan to build a stadium in Anoka County collapsed last fall. The impact of the sale on the Star Tribune was unclear. Star Tribune publisher Par Ridder said Thursday he “was not in a position to comment” on the possible sale. OhSang Kwon, a partner with Avista, said no deal had been reached. In addition, Lester Bagley, the Vikings’ vice president for stadium development and public affairs, said earlier Thursday there was “no new news” on the much-speculated transaction.
The Star Tribune land sale would come a month after Wilf, a real-estate developer based in New Jersey, disclosed he had paid $5 million to buy three other parking lots near the Metrodome, which together comprise less than three city blocks. Although the team unveiled a proposal to revitalize the area near the Metrodome in April, the Vikings have not provided details on how the project, which would almost certainly include a plea for public subsidies, would be funded. The Vikings’ current lease at the Metrodome expires in 2011.