- Associated Press - Thursday, December 9, 2010

EDEN PRAIRIE, MINN. (AP) - The Vikings are approaching the end of perhaps the most disappointing of their 50 seasons in Minnesota, the playoffs a near impossibility in a year with Super Bowl aspirations.

Next year will be filled with uncertainty about whether the Vikings will actually stay in Minnesota.

The Vikings are about to enter the final year of their lease at the Metrodome, now known as Mall of America Field, without any guarantee where they’ll play their home games beyond the 2011 season, if there is one with the labor situation unclear. And two separate groups in Los Angeles are trying to lure a team back to the nation’s second-largest market that’s been missing one since the Raiders and Rams both left in 1995.

How realistic is the possibility the Vikings would move west?

One analyst who closely follows the business of sports, economics professor Andrew Zimbalist of Smith College in Massachusetts, says he doesn’t see it happening.

“Minnesota is just too strong a market,” Zimbalist said Thursday. “I’m sure it’ll be discussed, because they want to apply pressure. I just don’t think it’s going to happen.”

In Zimbalist’s view, the San Diego Chargers and the Jacksonville Jaguars are on top of the list of teams most likely to relocate to Los Angeles.

The Chargers can declare their intent to leave between Feb. 1 and April 30 of each year through 2020 if they pay off the bonds used to expand Qualcomm Stadium in 1997. They announced this week they’re staying in San Diego for 2011, but beyond that their whereabouts are unknown.

Commissioner Roger Goodell said last February he’s concerned about the Jaguars and that attendance needs to pick up for the city to keep the franchise. There’s also speculation about the Buffalo Bills, the Oakland Raiders, the St. Louis Rams and the San Francisco 49ers.

The spokesman for one of the hopeful Los Angeles-area developers, Majestic Realty Co. vice president John Semcken, acknowledged the lack of certainty of landing a franchise.

“In my opinion, every team would prefer to be in the market that they’re in, which is unfortunate for us,” said Semcken, whose group already has state approval to build a privately financed project in a Los Angeles suburb.

Semcken said his group has been told the NFL is not focusing on stadiums or franchise relocation until completion of a new collective bargaining agreement, a labor dispute that could dominate 2011.

But Semcken added: “We’re very confident that we’ll get something eventually.”

Anschutz Entertainment Group, led by president and CEO Tim Leiweke, is proposing a downtown stadium and convention center revamp as part of a large entertainment complex already run by AEG. An AEG spokesman didn’t immediately return a message left Thursday.

Lester Bagley, a Vikings vice president, has acknowledged contact from both the Majestic and AEG groups about their interest in the franchise. The team’s response, according to Bagley, was that the focus remains on getting a new facility built in Minnesota.

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