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Vikings, authority want to pick architect by Oct. 5

By Brian Johnson
Dolan Media Newswires

MINNEAPOLIS — The Minnesota Vikings and the Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority will choose an architect for the $975 million Vikings stadium project by early October.

Five teams — Los Angeles-based AECOM, Philadelphia-based Ewing Cole, Dallas-based HKS, Kansas City-based HNTB, and Kansas City-based Populous — are vying for the up to $50 million contract and a selection will be announced no later than the MSFA’s Oct. 5 meeting.

But MSFA board chairwoman Michele Kelm-Helgen said a decision could come sooner.

“The furthest away would be three weeks from now at our next meeting and I think there’s a chance that if we are ready, we could call a special meeting to formalize the decision prior to that,” she said.

Kelm-Helgen said that the team and the authority have to agree on major decisions such as selection of an architecture/engineering team. A “working group” with representatives of the team and the authority will make the call, she said.

Essentially, “each group gets one vote, so it’s going to be done in a collaborative way, because we both have to agree,” she said.

The board originally planned to select an architect as soon as Friday, but last week MSFA executive director Ted Mondale said the process likely would take longer than that because “we want to make sure we make the right choice and there are a lot of factors to weigh.”

Team and stadium authority representatives echoed those sentiments.

Lester Bagley, vice president of public affairs and stadium development for the Vikings, said the architect has to have experience with designing a multipurpose stadium and understand NFL program requirements.

Other criteria include commitment to sustainability and workforce goals, he said. The selection team also is “looking for some ideas on technology,” he said.

“Those are sort of what we are sorting through right now. … This is a joint decision and we are doing our due diligence on all five firms,” he said. “There are some great proposals and it’s going to be a tough decision, but it’s a very important decision.”

Bagley said the team and the authority are working well together and still are on track with the project’s timeline, which calls for the stadium to be open in time for the 2016 season.

Interviews were conducted Sept. 6-7 and “we’re still processing that and putting information together,” Kelm-Helgen said. No paring down of the list is planned before a selection is announced, she said.

The selection process is spelled out in the stadium law approved by state lawmakers in May.

The statute said the “design, development and construction of the stadium shall be a collaborative process between the authority and the NFL team,” and calls for creation of “a stadium design and construction group, including representatives of the authority and the NFL team, to manage the design of the stadium and oversee construction.”

The MSFA also has approved a resolution to enter into a project labor agreement for the stadium construction.

PLAs set minimum standards for wages, working conditions and other project-related issues.

PLAs are designed to, among other things, provide a “peaceful means of dispute resolution without strikes or lockouts,” and keep the project’s schedule on track, according to a memorandum to the board from Dorsey & Whitney.

Critics say PLAs discourage participation from nonunion contractors and that they can inflate the cost of the project by limiting the pool of bidders, but others say it’s a logical tool for a large, complex project such as this one.

Details of the PLA won’t be worked out until a construction company is on board.

“The only thing we have done is in concept said that we will have a project labor agreement, but what that actually looks like has not been defined,” Kelm-Helgen said.

The MSFA chose Dorsey & Whitney and Fabyanske, Westra, Hart & Thomson, both of Minneapolis, to provide legal counsel for the stadium project. Sixteen firms bid for the work.

The selected firms were the unanimous choice of a review committee that included representatives of the MSFA board, MSFA staff, owner’s representative Hammes Co., Madison, Wis., and Michael Best & Friedrich Law firm, Madison.

Dorsey will provide counsel in the areas of financing, real estate, construction strategy, labor, intellectual property and other matters, the MSFA said. Fabyanske, Westra, Hart & Thomson was included based on its strong construction practice, said Ted Mondale, executive director of the MSFA.

Kelm-Helgen also said that the board is gathering information about ways to meet or exceed “workforce goals” for the project, including the hiring of women and minority workers and inclusion of disadvantaged businesses.

“A big part of the workforce goals will have to be done in conjunction with and in cooperation with the construction company that eventually comes on board,” she said.

Mondale said last week that a construction company could be selected in November.

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