Vikings, Wells Fargo stadium district sign dispute goes super-size

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(Flickr photo: taberandrew)

The Strib's Patrick Reusse is taking it to the Vikings today, excoriating the team for its opposition to a plan to put giant bank logos atop the towers Ryan Construction is building for Wells Fargo in downtown Minneapolis.

The Vikings say the logos may impinge on the corporate branding they're planning to sell on the stadium two blocks away. The stadium legislation gives the team the proceeds from sales of the naming rights on the new facility.

Writes Reusse: "I have to say, if you don't despise the Vikings' conduct in this greatest-ever blackmail of Minnesotans for a stadium, you're not trying."

And he isn't the only one with his dander up about the issue. Vikings vice president Lester Bagley called the Wells Fargo sign plan an "ambush," when he talked about it just before Thanksgiving:

"We're very supportive of the Ryan proposal, and we're a partner in this deal, along with the stadium authority, the city of Minneapolis, and Ryan. We're partners, and we've had a ton of partnership discussions. But this maneuver to ambush market the stadium is not a partnership move. Right now, those signs are not allowed by city ordinance. And further, they violate the state legislation that allowed the team, for our investment, to retain the naming rights for the stadium."

Things actually seemed a little calmer yesterday, after Bagley and Ryan vice president Rick Collins met outside a Minneapolis city council meeting.

"We're trying to resolve the situation as best we can," Bagley said. "We don't have an agreement with a naming rights partner but it could impact our conversations with a Minnesota corporation that would want to put their name on the building. It could impact whether they want to put their name on the building and what they would invest in that partnership."

Collins, though, disputed that the branding that the bank wants is technically a sign.

"The proposal by Ryan and Wells Fargo that includes a roof-mounted graphic," Collins said. "We don't consider it a sign. We consider it a graphic, because it's actually painted on the surface of the roof, but that remains subject to further negotiation and final resolution."

Nonetheless, Collins said it's a big deal to Wells Fargo.

"They're making a significant investment in the area. They're doing so and locating five to six thousand employees there, they're not asking for public subsidy, and they believe it's a very important branding opportunity for them as a return on their investment," Collins said.

The city council will be taking up the stadium district issue again on Monday in the Zoning and Planning Committee, although Collins said this week that the sign issue may be left to resolve after the full council considers the project on Friday.

Here's a look at the site.

Ryan plan
Rendering of Ryan Cos. planned stadium district development. The white roofs are the location of the proposed Wells Fargo logos that are in dispute by Ryan and the Minnesota Vikings.