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Builders: Just get Vikings stadium done

By Brian Johnson
Dolan Media Newswires

A $1.1 billion retractable-roof stadium is proposed for the site of the old Army ammunition plant in Arden Hills, Minn., about 10 miles from downtown Minneapolis. (AP Photo/Minnesota Vikings,HO)

Minneapolis — As Ramsey County and the city of Minneapolis make their pitches for a new Vikings stadium, construction folks are either staying in the middle or leaning toward Arden Hills as their preferred location.

But in general, the building industry’s position on the stadium can be summed up in four words: Just get it done.

Although Ramsey County and the Vikings announced a plan earlier this week to build a $1.1 billion stadium at the former Twin Cities Army Ammunition Plant, Minneapolis doesn’t appear to be giving up its vision for a new $895 million stadium where the Metrodome sits.

And that’s OK with people such as David Oxley, executive director of the American Council of Engineering Companies of Minnesota, who said his organization wanted to see a new stadium but was neutral on the site.

ACEC members had a hand in building the Metrodome and Target Field in Minneapolis, and it would be great, Oxley said, to see local design and engineering involvement in a new Vikings venue at a time people are struggling to find work.

“It’s an important feature in our city, and I am thrilled we are getting close,” Oxley said. “We don’t want to see the Los Angeles Vikings.”

Others prefer the Arden Hills location because of its logistical advantages and job creation potential.

From a construction standpoint, Arden Hills has the edge because it would be easier to get trucks and workers in and out, and it has more elbow room for materials and equipment, noted LouAnne Berg, chief executive officer of Hudson, Wis.-based J&L Steel Inc.

Target Field construction workers faced similar challenges. Because the ballpark is tucked into a tight downtown location, much of the work happened from the inside out, with the infield serving as a staging area for construction materials.

Berg’s crews have worked on light rail and parking ramp projects in downtown Minneapolis, so she is familiar with the obstacles.

“How many thousands of people are going to be working there? Where are they parking? That is an issue,” she said. “We always talk about how time is money in construction. If people have a tough time getting in and out for parking in the morning, or have to park four or five blocks away, you are spending time with guys standing around. My preference would be Arden Hills.”

Golden Valley-based Mortenson Construction, which built Target Field and TCF Bank Stadium, has been advising the Metropolitan Sports Facilities Commission and others on Vikings stadium issues.

But Mortenson is not taking sides in the Ramsey County versus Minneapolis debate. Both sites are “buildable and doable for an NFL facility,” Mortenson Vice President Ken Sorensen said.

Considering the high level of unemployment in the construction trades, Sorensen said it would be “a positive thing for our industry” to see a stadium project start in 2012.

Gary Struss, a recently retired union organizer for the Sheet Metal Workers Local 10 in Maplewood, likes Arden Hills because of its potential to create another round of jobs for construction trades.

“There is going to be more roadwork done there (in Arden Hills),” Struss said. “It generates more opportunities for construction workers. … It has the chance to lead to hotels and motels and other types of entertainment being built on that site.”

Struss likens the stadium project to construction of the Mall of America in Bloomington in the early 1990s. He said the mall project played a big role in stimulating a building boom during that decade.

“All the big contractors went to work on the mall, and the little contractors took the small jobs, and it grew and grew,” Struss said. “That boom didn’t stop for probably 10 years. They build this stadium and it’s the beginning of who knows what?”

Tim Worke, director of the Associated General Contractors of Minnesota’s Highway Division, said the Arden Hills location lent itself to more infrastructure work — roads, bridges and parking garages — assuming policymakers could find a way to pay for it.

Even so, construction crews would have a chance to perform broad scopes of work at either site, including site preparation, utilities, pile driving and pavement work.

AGC has not taken a position for or against either location, he noted.

“Both the building and highway side of our organization are ready to jump in and participate in whatever way they can,” Worke said.

Ramsey County plans to buy 430 acres from the U.S. Army for about $30 million, which includes pollution remediation costs for the Superfund site. About 260 acres will be used for the stadium and 170 for private development.

Ramsey County’s plan calls for $407 million from the Vikings, $350 million from the county — via a half-cent county sales tax — and $300 million from the state, which has yet to formally commit any money to a stadium project.

A day before the unveiling of the Arden Hills plan, the city of Minneapolis announced a plan for an $895 million stadium at the Metrodome site with $195 million from the city, $400 million from the team and $300 million from the state.

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