Football / Sports

Vikings kick in $46M more for new downtown stadium

The Minnesota Vikings have increased their contribution to their new stadium by $49 million since last fall, including an infusion of $20 million in cash to cover a funding gap for hundreds of items in the $1 billion building under construction in downtown Minneapolis.

The Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority (MSFA) unanimously approved the budget changes Friday after lavishly praising the Vikings for upping their payment on the tab.

The team's owners tapped a previously established contingency fund of $26 million. Their contribution also includes a previously announced increase of $2.5 million for bigger videos, TV walls and escalators. The $19 million is the new chunk that brings the total contribution to $526 million and the budget to $1.023 billion.

The taxpayer contribution is unchanged at $498 million.

The new money wasn't going toward any specific major feature of the new stadium, but rather to what Mortenson construction senior vice president John Wood called "literally hundreds of hundreds" of items, including ductwork on the upper level. The Vikings want to emphasize fan comfort and fan experience, particularly for those in the upper bowl, he said, adding that the new work was technically optional but will better distribute the air for fans.

Another fan amenity funded with the money -- beverage conduits to pipe beer and soda directly into concession areas, avoiding the need to roll kegs through the concourses as was the delivery manner at the Metrodome.

Other items covered by the Vikings' funding increase include five huge pivoting glass doors, elevators, escalators and acoustics.

MSFA Chair Michele Kelm-Helgen said the money bridges the funding gap in the project caused by refinements to the original plan adopted last fall. For future overruns, the MSFA has a $21 million contingency fund of its own. Beyond that, is anybody's guess.

Wood said the 5 percent overrun was not a remarkable number for stadium construction.

What wasn't included: Bird-proofing the stadium glass to mitigate deaths during the avian migration along the nearby Mississippi River corridor. Kelm-Helgen said the glass sought by the Audubon Society would detract from the defining feature of the new facility: the clear glass. "It's not a cost issue, it's a design issue," she said.

Bird-friendlier glass would turn the light in the stadium "murky," she said. The MSFA has agreed to keep the lights on to help birds avoid the glass.

In other action, the MSFA approved a third-party operator for the stadium: Philadelphia-based SMG. The company also operates Soldier Field, the Superdome and NRG in Houston, which will host the Super Bowl in 2017, one year before the Vikings do so.

SMG is guaranteeing that $6.75 million annually will go to the MSFA, money Kelm-Helgen said could be used for upgrades and maintenance.

(c)2014 Star Tribune (Minneapolis)

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