By Brian Johnson
Dolan Media Newswires
MINNEAPOLIS — The soon-to-be-announced construction manager for the Vikings stadium project won’t have much time to celebrate its selection.
The Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority will meet Friday to approve the construction services agreement, one of the biggest decisions related to the $975 million project.
The finalists are Golden Valley-based Mortenson Construction, and a joint venture of Scottsdale, Ariz.-based Hunt Construction Group and Minneapolis-based Kraus-Anderson.
Once on board, the construction manager will be expected to dig right into the work in order to meet a tight construction schedule, which calls for an early October groundbreaking and August 2016 completion.
“We haven’t quite finalized things, but we are making positive movement and I think we will have a decision on Friday,” said Michele Kelm-Helgen, chairwoman of the authority.
The authority has to give notice of its meetings at least three days in advance. Technically, it still could cancel the meeting if “we are not quite there,” but “it looks good” for approving a contract Friday, she said.
Kelm-Helgen said the project still is on track for an early October start.
But the schedule won’t be easy, said John Klipsch, the executive director of the Indiana Stadium and Convention Building Authority, which oversaw construction of the $720 million Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, home of the Indianapolis Colts.
Among the challenges: The winters are harsh and the site is problematic. Some construction will take place next to the existing stadium while the Vikings are playing there and that will slow the pace of construction, Klipsch said.
A retractable roof or wall could put more pressure on the schedule, because retractable-roof stadiums take longer to build and design than fixed-roof venues, Klipsch said.
“It’s a tough site, a tough project,” he said.
Lucas Oil Stadium and the proposed Vikings stadium have similarities, including the architect (Dallas-based HKS Sports & Entertainment) and a tight location in an urban setting.
Lucas Oil Stadium, which opened in 2008, has a retractable roof and seating for 67,000 fans.
For the Vikings stadium, the “heavy-duty, round-the-clock” work, including a decision on a retractable roof or wall, will begin after the entire construction team is in place, Ted Mondale, executive director of the authority, said last fall.
Drawings of the new stadium are expected to be released in March or April.
The Vikings will play the 2013 season at the Metrodome even as construction begins on a portion of the new stadium site.
The Vikings long have planned to play at least one season at the University of Minnesota’s TCF Bank Stadium while the new stadium is under construction. Now it looks like the team will play the 2014 and 2015 seasons there.
Kelm-Helgen said that decision will come soon after the construction manager is hired.
“As we talk to the architect, it’s looking more and more like they will have to play two seasons at TCF,” she said. “But we haven’t made a final decision.”
The importance of keeping the stadium project on track is reflected in the Vikings stadium legislation. The statute includes a provision that allows the construction manager to self-perform work it “determines to be critical to the completion schedule,” without soliciting competitive bids. Evidence of competitive pricing must be submitted, according to the statute, but some critics say it leaves the door open to abuse.
Either way the schedule will be challenging, but to meet the schedule under the one-season scenario, “they would have to have mild winters, work around the clock, and have a fixed roof,” Klipsch said.
Tom Fisher, professor of architecture and dean of the University of Minnesota’s College of Design, said the retractable roof question will have to be answered pretty quickly, because it has implications for the structure and the foundation.
“I don’t necessarily know if it would lengthen the time of construction, but the decision about whether to have it or not has to happen soon,” Fisher said.
The schedule has been aggressive for the design team as well as the construction manager, he said.
“I think it’s doable,” Fisher said. “I don’t think it’s unrealistic, but it’s a pretty fast pace for such a big project.”