Mortenson exec is more than ‘stadium guy’
Published: October 8, 2009
Tags: Alerus Center, Bethel College, Disney Wide World of Sports Complex, Edward Jones Dome, Fla., Grand Forks, Hotel Minneapolis, Iowa State University, Kansas City, MacPhail Center for Music, Minneapolis Convention Center, Minneapolis Library, Minnesota Twins, Minnesota Zoo, Mo., Mortenson Construction, N.D, National Sports Center, Orlando, Sports Facility Commission, Sprint Center, St. Louis, St. Paul, Target Center, University of Minnesota, University of Wisconsin, Xcel Center
Dolan Media Newswires
Minneapolis — Ken Sorensen loves sports. His son plays football at the University of Wisconsin and his employer’s handiwork can be found on many of the largest and best-known sports facilities in the country. Yet he wants to get rid of the notion that all he cares about is sports.
“I don’t want to be seen as just a sports guy. I manage all our business in Minnesota,” said Sorensen,
Mortenson Construction’s vice president and general manager for the Minneapolis Group. “We’ve done two big stadiums, but our bread-and-butter work in this community is not sports work, its health care and higher education.”
Those two big stadiums are for the Minnesota Twins and the University of Minnesota Gophers. Yet he’s overseen many other projects, among them buildings at the University of Minnesota and Bethel College, the MacPhail Center for Music, the Hotel Minneapolis, the Minneapolis Library and the Minnesota Zoo grizzly bear exhibit.
A personal favorite of Sorensen’s was the Minneapolis Convention Center expansion, which he calls a “really rewarding project (that) achieved an unprecedented level of minority participation that set the bar for this community, for us and the city. It was 42 percent minority and targeted business participation.”
The 30-year veteran of the construction trades grew up in Clinton, Iowa. The son of a builder, Sorensen spent his summers in high school and college working with his father. After graduating from Iowa State University in construction engineering, he spent seven years after college in his family’s business.
After joining Mortenson in 1985, he worked as a manager on several big projects, among them the National Sports Center in Blaine and the Target Center in Minneapolis. Success on those projects led Mortenson to create a dedicated sports group, with Sorensen at the helm.
That was in the 1990s, when the company participated in construction of the Edward Jones Dome in St. Louis, the Disney Wide World of Sports Complex in Orlando, Fla., Alerus Center in Grand Forks, N.D., the Xcel Center in St. Paul, and the Sprint Center in Kansas City, Mo., he said. Back home, he stayed active in athletics, too, helping coach his four boys in various sports.
Stadium projects have involved overseeing as many as 600 to 700 contractors doing masonry, concrete and carpentry assignments, Sorensen said. Mortenson hires staff rather than using subcontractors, a practice of many firms. Over the years, he said the sports facilities group has become one of the top three sports stadium builders in the country.
Looking at his career, Sorensen said his favorite projects are Disney’s Wide World of Sports, which solidified the company’s acumen in the sports market; the renovation of the University of Iowa’s Kinnick Stadium, which brought him back to his home state (“that was an emotional win,” he said) and the home fields of the Twins and Gophers.
The local stadiums were “the icing on the cake in terms of being able to build those projects in my home community,” he said.
In the future, Sorensen sees higher education and health care as continued growth areas for Mortenson.
Although business may be down, he doesn’t see any see either of those two markets spiraling into a long construction recession because the needs in both those economic sectors will continue.
And after waiting a decade to be part of the Minnesota Twins ballpark, he already has a role in a proposed new Minnesota Vikings stadium.
The Sports Facility Commission selected Mortenson as a consultant on the proposed Vikings stadium, along with a Dallas-based architectural firm. He wants the Vikings on his résumé, if only because Mortenson has been part of every other major stadium project so far in the Twin Cities. “We anticipate providing support until the time is right for that project to happen in Minnesota,” he said.