Stadium price report coming as officials woo major sports events

By Don Davis

Minnesota stadium officials will get a better idea of what will fit into a new Vikings stadium next week even as stadium and team officials try to lure major sports events even before ground is broken.

Chairwoman Michele Kelm-Helgen of the Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority told a legislative committee Thursday that Mortenson Construction will provide a “guaranteed maximum price” document next week.

However, she said, the top price will remain at the $975 million lawmakers and Gov. Mark Dayton have approved. The importance of next week’s document will be how much Mortenson thinks the money can buy.

The Vikings and the authority have lists of things they would like included, ranging from more laundry equipment to better computer connections, if money allows.

Kelm-Helgen has said that construction is increasing in the Midwest, which likely will drive up building costs.

Sports Business Daily reported Thursday that Mortenson is struggling in preparing next week’s report.

The publication reported that on Oct. 12, four days after the authority and Vikings inked a stadium construction deal, “Mortenson provided the Vikings with new numbers showing them hard costs had increased by $45M … a major swing in price after months of negotiations.”

Business Sports News added: “Sources said the new set of numbers has alarmed the Vikings to the point that they have had private conversations with a separate contractor to find out what their options are.”

Kelm-Helgen, however, assured the legislative committee: “Right now, we are on budget and on schedule and that is where we plan to stay.”

On Oct. 8, Kelm-Helgen said that some items were coming in more expensive than expectations, but things can be cut to reduce to keep the cost within budget.

The Vikings already have promised to pay an extra $13.1 million, if needed, to include some items they want in the facility.

Groundbreaking is expected in mid-November and the first Vikings game should be played in the stadium in 2016.

Big event prospects

Even before construction has started, the new downtown Minneapolis stadium is in the running to host a Super Bowl, college football championship and basketball Final Four tournament.

Vikings Vice President Lester Bagley told the legislative committee Thursday that the stadium is being considered as the site for the football Bowl Championship Series title game in 2017. Officials of the college series are to be in Minneapolis to check into the prospects and attend Sunday night’s Vikings-Green Bay Packers game.

Bagley said that stadium officials are talking to the NCAA about hosting the Final Four college basketball tournament, as well as regional teams that lead up to the basketball championship.

The National Football League already announced that the new stadium is one of three being considered for the 2018 Super Bowl. Bagley said if it does not make the cut for that year, it likely will host the extravaganza in 2019 or 2020.

“This is an opportunity for our state to generate some excitement and some economic impact,” Bagley said, with hundreds of millions of dollars spent by fans.

Indianapolis and New Orleans are the other two cities competing with Minneapolis.

NFL owners are to decide the issue next May.

Redskin protest planned

Also involving the Vikings on Thursday, the American Civil Liberties Union of Minnesota said the Washington Redskins nickname is racist and should not be used.

Opponents of “Redskins” told the Sports Facilities Authority earlier this month that they will protest its use when the team comes to Minneapolis Nov. 7 for a Thursday night game.

“The Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority, the media and the Vikings team should all make a pledge to not use the name ‘Redskins,’ and instead refer to the team simply as Washington,” Executive Director Charles Samuelson of the state civil liberties union said. “The name, logo and mascot are racist imagery that does not honor anyone, but instead perpetuate stereotypes that are particularly hurtful and offensive given the history of forced assimilation and brutality that Native Americans were forced to endure in Minnesota and throughout the country.”

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