The Twins got their Way, and the Vikings want one too.
The Minneapolis City Planning Commission unanimously turned down a request from the Minnesota Vikings to rename three blocks of Chicago Avenue near the team's new stadium to "Vikings Way." The Vikings requested the name change in part because the Chicago Bears are divisional rivals.
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The street signs for Chicago Avenue may not be as insulting to the Vikings as say, Packer Street or Lions Boulevard, but according to the Vikings' application to the stretch of the street near U.S. Bank stadium, "The Minnesota Vikings strongly object to having the street running in front of the stadium named after one of its opponents and neighboring rival."
Just before Target Field opened six years ago, the Major League Baseball team successfully lobbied city officials to rename part of Third Avenue North "Twins Way."
Minneapolis City Council Member Lisa Bender — who also sits on the planning commission — voted no on the team's request Monday along with all the other commissioners. Bender said many of her constituents are still miffed that the city is kicking $150 million into the billion-dollar stadium project, and they don't want any more giveaways.
"I think it's part of an overall reaction to that. Not just this specific request, but part of this whole package of public subsidy for the stadium and everything else," Bender said.
But City Council Member Jacob Frey — whose ward includes the stadium — said the Vikings may still get the street name they seek.
Frey said the council could take up the matter. But he said that in exchange for a name change the Vikings need to offer more concessions on the use of Downtown East Commons, the 4.2-acre park that's part of the stadium development.
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The team has priority use of that park on game days, but Frey says it should be open to the public as much as possible.
"We want anybody, regardless of who you are or where you come from or whether you're a Vikings season ticket-holder or not, to have the ability to use that space every day of the year," Frey said. "And I think we're making substantial strides in that direction right now."
Frey pointed out that the team has already agreed to lease the Hennepin County Medical Examiner's parking lot for some game day activities to relieve pressure on the park.
Talking to reporters after the planning commission meeting Monday, Vikings spokesperson Lester Bagley said he was disappointed with the decision, and the team is figuring out its next steps.
Citing the Twins precedent, Bagley said the Vikings' request should not have sparked such controversy.
"They went through a very similar, identical process to change the street name," he said. "And it went through. It was just ours appears to be more contentious."
Bagley said that like the Twins, the Vikings have made a long-term commitment to Minnesota and the team should have its name reflected in its business address. He said the team is helping to fund the Commons as well as a pedestrian bridge over the light rail tracks.
Bagley also downplayed Chicago Avenue's association with the Bears, saying someone in the Vikings front office inadvertently included that language in the name change application, not realizing it would be public.