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New Vikings stadium could host Gopher baseball -- if the numbers work

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Minnesota Vikings stadium

February is an awfully cold time to be playing outdoor baseball in Minnesota, so University of Minnesota baseball coach John Anderson is working to make the new Minnesota Vikings stadium baseball-friendly -- but the NFL team is skeptical about what he is proposing.

The Vikings want to build a state-of-the-art stadium to replace the Metrodome, with an emphasis on placing seats close to the gridiron. That means a traditional rectangular shape -- a shape that doesn't lend itself too well to baseball, as many teams have learned throughout the years. (Unless, of course, you're Wally Moon playing at the L.A. Coliseum with the Los Angeles Dodgers.) The Vikings want to put the first row of seats 44 feet from the field, a configuration that would pretty much eliminate the possibility of laying a diamond for winter play. And that's not sitting well with Anderson and members of the stadium authority. Using the proposed configuration from HKS and the Vikings, the right-field foul pole would be 285 feet down the line and the right-field power alley 319 feet. Anderson wants to see the outfield wall 305 feet down the line and a power alley of 340 feet -- which means moving back some pretty prime seats along the sideline. Lester Bagley, working on stadium development for the Vikings, told the Star Tribune why this doesn't work for the team:

"Fundamentally, this is a football stadium, and what the Vikings invested in was a first-class fan experience. ... We're in a dogfight with HDTV. We've got to get our fans off the couch and away from the TVs and get them to the stadium. That's more important to us."

Just how important was emphasized in a Jan. 8 letter outlining the team's position.

"A fan's proximity to the action when sitting in a seat in the new stadium is paramount," the letter said. "Being asked to compromise this critical element of the design and accepting a greater distance to the field is something that the Team cannot do."

If the Vikings and the stadium authority can't agree on this point, it could go to arbitration. Then again, there may be a more politically palatable solution involving retractable seats and a baggie a la the Metrodome.

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