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Stadium site work could begin this year

Minnesota Vikings fan David Gunderson (right) embraces Larry Spooner after the Vikings stadium bill passed Thursday in the Senate in St. Paul, Minn. (AP Photo by Renee Jones Schneider/Star Tribune)

Minneapolis has to sign off on Vikings arena

By Brian Johnson
Dolan Media Newswires

The Vikings stadium focus soon could turn from politics to construction, as site work for the new venue could begin before year’s end.

Early Thursday, the House passed the Vikings stadium bill and the Senate added its approval later in the day.

The assumption has been that construction of the 65,000-seat covered stadium at the Metrodome site in Minneapolis could start in 2013.

Chuck Lutz, deputy director of the Minneapolis Community Planning and Economic Development department, said some preliminary site work could happen this year, although it’s too soon to give a more precise time.

“There are many steps that have to happen before that can begin,” he said.

Most important, the City Council still has to sign off on its $150 million contribution, as well as land use and planning approvals. That could happen as soon as May 25, said John Stiles, spokesman for Mayor R.T. Rybak.

A public sports authority that would oversee design development, construction and operations of the new facility has to be created, Lutz said, and design and construction requests for proposals need to go out.

Some work on the east side of the Metrodome could start while the stadium remains in use. The Vikings will play a season at TCF Bank Stadium while the new stadium is built after reaching a preliminary agreement with the University of Minnesota.

The bill establishes a five-member Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority to oversee the new stadium, with three of the members, including the chairman, appointed by the governor and two by the mayor of Minneapolis.

Design and construction shall be “a collaborative process” between the authority and the Vikings, according to the stadium legislation, which specifies some “general program and design elements.”

Among those general requirements: The stadium will be about 1.5 million square feet with 65,000 seats (expandable to 72,000), 150 suites, 7,500 club seats and space for administrative operations, retail, concessions and restaurants.

It also will include 2,000 parking spaces within a block of the stadium, “connected by tunnel or skyway,” and 500 spaces within two blocks, with “a dedicated walkway on game days.”

There’s also a nod to green building.

To “the extent practicable,” the legislation states, the project team will “build a stadium that is environmentally and energy efficient” and will “make an effort” to build one that is eligible for LEED or Green Globes certification.

The bill also states that, “to the extent practicable,” at least 25 percent of the stadium-related “materials, supplies and equipment” must be “made or produced by Minnesota businesses.”

The stadium will have a roof that is “fixed or retractable,” but the more expensive retractable roof would have to be done “without any increase to the funding provided by the city or state.”

Vikings owners Zygi and Mark Wilf appear to be leaning in favor of a retractable roof. The exact price tag isn’t currently known, but the Wilfs said Friday that they were exploring the idea. Mark Wilf said they wanted to make the stadium as attractive to fans as possible. If a retractable roof is the best way to go, he said “we’re going to try to do it.”

The stadium has a “maximum guaranteed price” of $975 million — $477 million from the Vikings, $348 million from the state and $150 million from the city — and any cost overruns are the builder’s responsibility.

Tim Worke, director of the Associated General Contractors of Minnesota’s highway and transportation division, said such provisions weren’t unusual under a construction manager at risk procurement.

In that case, Worke said, the contractor provides a guaranteed maximum price to the owner, and once that price is agreed upon the contractor “takes responsibility for cost overruns.”

John Wood, senior vice president for Mortenson Construction, a stadium adviser for the Vikings, previously said the Vikings stadium was a “big complicated project,” and that more precise construction details would emerge in the design and engineering phase.

Construction relatively should happen quickly compared with the last big professional sports stadium built in town.

Six years ago, Gov. Tim Pawlenty signed legislation authorizing construction of a $522 million stadium for the Minnesota Twins. The official groundbreaking didn’t happen until Aug. 30, 2007 — 15 months after Pawlenty signed the bill.

A price dispute with the landowners and other complications delayed the construction of Target Field.

Groundbreaking was supposed to happen Aug. 2, 2007. But the day before, the Interstate 35W bridge over the Mississippi River in Minneapolis collapsed, and the event was rescheduled, said Kevin Smith, director of communications for the Twins.

Smith said the Vikings had the advantage of building on an existing stadium site.

Unlike the Vikings, the Twins had to deal with numerous site-related challenges, including unfavorable soils, relocation of railroad tracks, working around two bridges and a tight site.

The Target Field project team, led by Mortenson Construction, had to build from the inside out and construct tower cranes in what is the infield.

Despite the challenges, Target Field came together quickly. By August 2009, two years after groundbreaking, that infield staging area was covered with grass, and by the end of 2009 the place was “habitable” and team officials were moving in, he said.

“That’s a 24-month period where they basically constructed the whole thing,” Smith said. “I don’t know how they did it.”

Mortenson estimates that the Vikings stadium project would provide 4.2 million work hours for 7,500 workers.

Glen Johnson, business manager for the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 49 in Minneapolis, said the project was “a good thing” for the state and the Vikings, and it was going to put a lot of people back to work.

“I think it’s a start of moving out of our recession,” Johnson said, “and into, maybe, some prosperity.”

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