Dear Mall of America, IKEA, the Minnesota Wild and the City of Bloomington,
This letter is in regard to creating a historical marker to recognize the history of the Minnesota North Stars on the exact site where they once played. The Mall has markers recognizing the history of Metropolitan Stadium (and the Minnesota Twins/Vikings).
Yet, there is nothing signifying that the North Stars or Met Center ever existed on the Mall of America/IKEA property.
I ask that you please read my historical justification below and consider the idea. Suggestions for a possible Met Center/North Stars historical marker follow the justification.
Justification: A brief history of the Mall of America land:
In June of 1953, Civic leaders from Minneapolis and St. Paul formed a group called “The Twin Cities Major League Baseball Committee” with the intention of getting approval as a potential site for a major league team. The first obstacle would be constructing a large enough stadium. Different sites were considered, including one on the present day University of Minnesota (St. Paul) campus. Eventually the Minneapolis City Council approved the purchase of farm land in the village of Bloomington. The land was located in the SE corner of Cedar Avenue and what was then known as Highway 100 (Today, interstate 494).
Groundbreaking for the stadium was temporarily delayed because the farmer who owned the land, Paul Gerhardt, had not been paid. In protest, he barricaded the land with tractors to prevent construction equipment from entering the property. The matter was quickly settled and the groundbreaking for what would eventually become known as Metropolitan Stadium took place on June 20, 1955.
On April 24, 1956, the new stadium held its first game. The Minneapolis Millers lost to the Wichita Braves 5-4 in front of a crowd of 18,366. Because the Millers were a minor league team for the New York Giants, there were rumors that the Giants were going to move to Minnesota and play in Metropolitan Stadium. But in 1957, they moved to San Francisco instead.
In July of 1959 a new major baseball league formed to compete with the American and National Leagues. Calling itself the Continental League, it promised a franchise in the Twin Cities.
A month later in August of 1959, the Twin cities were chosen as an inaugural franchise in the newly formed American Professional Football League, which eventually came to be known as the AFL.
The Twin Cities now had two major professional sports leagues knocking on the door to play at Metropolitan Stadium.
Ironically, it worked out that way in the end, but not as you might think.
In January of 1960, the owners of the Twin Cities AFL franchise were talked into abandoning that team and instead accepted an expansion franchise from the bigger and more established NFL. The abandoned AFL team would become the Oakland Raiders. The Twin Cities new NFL franchise would become the Minnesota Vikings.
Later that same year, on August 2, 1960, the Continental League folded without ever playing a game. Less than a month later, on August 30, the American League voted to expand and chose the Twin Cities as a candidate for a team. However, in October 1960, Calvin Griffith, the owner of the Washington Senators talked American League officials into letting him move his team to Minnesota. Griffith renamed his team the Minnesota Twins. Washington instead, got the expansion franchise.
The Twins first game at Metropolitan Stadium was played on April 21, 1961, losing 5-3 to the expansion Washington Senators. The Vikings first home game was played on September 17, 1961, an upset of the Chicago Bears, 37-13.
While the baseball and football teams were establishing their Minnesota roots during the early 1960’s at Metropolitan Stadium, a group of Twin Cities businessmen, led by Walter Bush, were interested in bring a third Major League sport to Minnesota, the National Hockey League. As with baseball, the first hurdle was to have an arena that was big enough to satisfy league requirements. They looked at different options, including the State Fairgrounds, and remodeling the St. Paul Auditorium. In the end the decision was made for them by the NHL Board of Governors, who wouldn't accept any proposals that didn't include a brand new arena. The only option then, was to build a new arena on the land just north of Metropolitan Stadium.
When the arena was built, it was paid for by the North Stars original owners. However, there was a clause in the Bloomington city charter that prevented a private business from owning a building on city property. Therefore, the North Stars were forced to turn over ownership of the the building to the committee that oversaw the property – commonly known as “The Sports Commission”... for $1 (Yes, a single dollar).
In other words, the North Stars were then forced to pay rent, in the arena that they had paid to construct. As absurd as that seems today, they did what they had to do to bring major hockey to Minnesota. After being granted an NHL franchise in February 1966, the North Stars played their first game at the Metropolitan Sports Center on October 21, 1967, a 3-1 win over the Oakland Seals.
In 1977, the state legislature created a committee to determine whether to renovate Metropolitan Stadium or build a new one. The problem was that the stadium wasn’t really designed for football. There was barely enough room to fit the entire field and there was a great deal of space between the stands and the sideline which made for less than ideal viewing. In fact, because of the unique placement of the football field, both the home and visiting teams shared a single sideline, which is unheard of today. In addition, the Vikings were unhappy with the stadium because they wanted more seating, and synthetic turf.
There were different solutions proposed at the time, one of which was to have the Vikings play at the University
Minnesota’s Memorial stadium which held 60,000. There were plans to build a new outdoor football stadium adjacent to Metropolitan Stadium, and there was also an option to build an indoor multi-purpose stadium downtown.
On December 1, 1978, the committee chose a downtown domed stadium by a 4-3 vote. A year later on December 20, 1979, ground was broken and construction began on what would be called the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome.
The Twins played their final game at Metropolitan Stadium on September 30, 1981 – a 5-2 loss to the Kansas City Royals. The Vikings played their final game at the stadium on December 20, 1981 - a 10-6 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs. The end of that game infamously turned into a destructive riot with fans tearing the stadium apart for souvenirs. Both the Twins and Vikings moved into the Metrodome in 1982.
For the next 3 years, Metropolitan Stadium sat abandoned while those in control decided what to do with the property. It was often vandalized and became a safety hazard. It was demolished on January 28, 1985.
In the summer of 1985, after years of debate on what should be done with the land, a Canadian company called “Triple 5” was chosen to develop the stadium site into the world’s largest indoor mall. In June of 1989, ground was broken for the future Mall of America and it officially opened its doors on August 11, 1992.
When the Mall opened it’s doors, the North Stars, who were owned by Norm Green at the time, still played at Met Center, which was just north of the Mall. Green, also a mall developer, had plans to build a walkway between Met Center and the Mall of America. He also wanted to develop his own shopping center around the hockey arena.
The only problem was he didn’t own the arena. As stated earlier, the building was owned by the Metropolitan Sports Commission.
Both sides blamed each other in the press, but the facts are that the commission would not approve of Green’s plans. In March of 1993, Green announced that he was moving the North Stars to Dallas.
The Minnesota North Stars played their final game at Met Center on April 15, 1993, a 5-3 loss to the Detroit Red Wings. Met Center was torn down on December 13, 1994. That parcel of land sat empty until 2004, when IKEA, a Scandinavian furniture chain built a showroom just west of where Met Center used to stand.
Both the Twins and the Vikings played at Metropolitan Stadium in Bloomington for 21 seasons. Since moving to the Metrodome, they have each moved into their own new stadiums, Target Field and US Bank Stadium respectively. Target field has statues of Twins legends, and the Vikings have their own history museum in Eagan. US Bank Stadium, which was built on the old Metrodome grounds, even has a replica home plate where the original one in the Metrodome once sat.
Inside the Mall of America there is a replica plate in the floor signifying where the original Metropolitan Stadium home plate once sat. It's inscribed with “Metropolitan Stadium Home Plate 1956-1981”. Across the Mall, 522 feet away from that home plate, there’s a seat, high above the amusement park, that signifies where, on June 3, 1967, a home run hit by Harmon Killebrew landed in the second deck of the left field bleachers of the stadium. It was the longest home run in Metropolitan Stadium history.
In recent years, another marker was added to the Mall of America floor signifying where the Vikings 50 yard line was. It reads, "Metropolitan Stadium 50 Yard Line. September 10, 1961 - December 20, 1981".