Who doesn’t love a good tailgate?

“All of the concept drawings of the now-approved Vikings stadium proposal include large swaths of dedicated tailgating lots near the stadium. If Minneapolis builds these lots, the new facility will simply repeat the development mistakes of the area surrounding the Metrodome.” – Sam Rockwell at MinnPost

Who doesn’t love a good tailgate?

Back in the mid-2000s, I’d head to baseball games at the Metrodome with a handful of friends,  grab a grill, some cheap beer and countless brats and burgers. We’d post up in the parking lot that’s now Gold Medal Park and we’d eat, drink and occasionally make it to a Twins game. It was a blast.

Tailgating is not only fun, but it’s synonymous with red, white and blue. It has become a new American tradition that is seamlessly being integrated into new stadium plans. Unfortunately, these tailgating plans don’t fit well into urban spaces.

This is what the tailgating mecca of now-Gold Medal Park looked like circa 2006.

It was a beautiful, drunken mess of a place. This is a Google Streetview of the location a few years later. It’s clean, green and has a bike lane that connects to the Mississippi River.

The tailgating is gone. It’s been replaced by a park that abuts a number of mid-rise condo developments. 2nd Street in downtown has to be one of the most transformed streets in all of Minneapolis. What was once a sea of parking is now a successful urban place. This is the problem with tailgating in downtown and other locations where land is at a premium.

Tailgating downtown (or by the University of Minnesota, for example) isn’t very productive. Having open-surface parking lots in downtown designed for the sole purpose of grilling 10 days a year is unwise. Even if you consider that people will use the space for parking during the other 350 non-event days a year, it still falls short.

The Vikings Stadium site plan hasn’t been finalized, but this is what the public has to work with. Most of the northwest side of the proposed stadium is dedicated as some type of open space or tailgating space. The curious site drawing even includes two grey half-circle parcels what is now a over a parking lot and a Hennepin County building. If I had to take a guess, I’d say its a clever way to disguise what they hope will be open surface parking.

Why does land use matter? Well, that’s basically what we’re dealing with here in the development of the “People’s Stadium”.  How the new stadium and its surrounding relate to the rest of the downtown environment will ultimately determine the success of the stadium itself. The Metrodome failed as a catalyst for a number of reasons, some of which were outside of its control, but one of the primary failures of the Metrodome was that it helped turn everything around it into a parking lot.

There is this dubious claim advocated by stadium proponents that stadiums bring development. Minus a bar here and there, this is not true. Think of this, has Target Field really created development? Or, would the development in the North Loop occurred anyway? From all I can tell, all Target Field did was successfully motive Hubert’s and Kieran’s to relocate while leveraging the on-going successes of the North Loop.

Why would anyone want to live by a stadium or a tailgating lot? It’s a complete desert 95 percent of the time and complete chaos the other five percent of the time. Wanting to intentionally create that environment, that boom and bust cycle, in the center of a town seems like a good way to hurt it.

While I liked Sam Rockwell’s MinnPost article (and how he described the problem), I have to disagree with his assertion that a compromise can be reached and that Minneapolis can reinvent tailgating. We can’t, and we shouldn’t try. Minneapolis shouldn’t discourage people from tailgating, but at the same time, they certainly shouldn’t sacrifice our urban area to accommodate it. And, if it does, Minneapolis merely be repeating the mistakes of the past.

*FYI: This article was written at the Groveland Tap in St. Paul while enjoying the throwback $2.50 Summit pints happy hour. If you live in the neighborhood and haven’t been there yet, I recommend it. They have Jucy Lucys.