Vikings stadium payoff: What’s the return on our investment so far?

(Charles Hallman/MSR News)

Minority workforce and subcontracting goals were exceeded

First of a multi-series

Half the cost of the newly opened Vikings Stadium, known as the “People’s Stadium” before its corporate branding, has come from the people’s money — taxes and related public subsidies totaling more than half a billion dollars. Now is the time to assess just what the people, especially Black people, have received for their money thus far, from groundbreaking to grand opening and beyond. Who has benefited most from the controversial project? Has the Black community shared in the benefits? This multi-part series will seek answers to these and related questions.

From the drawing board several years ago, through its construction from the ground up to its grand opening, Black people have been involved in the new Vikings stadium. Black city inspectors gave the Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority (MSFA) the final approval of the new Minnesota Vikings downtown stadium, which is owned by the Authority.

Of the $1.1 billion total price tag, $348 million came from the State of Minnesota and $150 million from the City of Minneapolis. The Vikings team ownership group contributed $602 million toward its construction costs.

“During the building of the stadium, our inspectors were responsible in ensuring that codes and requirements were being adhered to,” noted City of Minneapolis Community Planning and Economic Development (CPED) Executive Director Craig Taylor. “A number of our team members were very involved in helping to coordinate a number of aspects from the financial all the way down to the actual building of the structure itself.”

The MSFA also established construction workforce goals for hiring Blacks, other people of color and women during construction: 32 percent “minority” and six percent women participation, the same goals the Minnesota Human Rights Department set several years ago. Earlier this year, the organization reported to the Minnesota Legislature that they exceeded the original hiring goals: 36 percent Blacks and other people of color and nine percent women.

Also, nine percent of stadium construction subcontracts reportedly went to “minority-owned” firms. “I am very proud that we were able to accomplish that, and I have no doubt that it will continue growing to have a lot of people from diverse backgrounds…not only to work but to grow their own business,” said Minnesota Vikings Executive Vice President Kevin Warren, the team’s highest ranking Black executive.

Warren and MSFA Equity Director Alex Tuttle, in separate MSR phone interviews, talked about their involvement in the construction phase of the stadium project.

“It was critical, and I know it was important for me,” stated Warren. “It was important for me not only because I live here, but it was the right thing” for Blacks and other people of color to be involved in the stadium project from the ground up.

“There were people who were concerned that we set the numbers so high, but the owners of the Vikings and key constituents [saw] that we were not only able to meet those numbers but also exceed those numbers.”

“Overall, I think we accomplished what we wanted to,” declared Tuttle, whose office runs the group’s Work Force Program. “It’s amazing what you can do when you approach this thing the right way [with] the right leadership and partners on board.”

“We hired outreach firms to do recruitment in the community,” noted MSFA Chair Michele Kelm-Helgen, who was appointed in 2012 by Gov. Mark Dayton.

HIRE Minnesota, a coalition of local organizations and activists, in 2012 submitted to local elected officials, including the Minneapolis mayor and the city council president, a Stadium Equity Plan “to meet hiring goals, to ensure people of color had access to the permanent jobs, and to prioritize workforce development funding in future budgets.”

Campaign Organizer Nick Kor told the MSR, “1.5 million hours worked by people of color — that’s about $39 million in wages. It is a lot of money. The idea of having a goal, and that goal is surpassed, to me it was successful.”

The MSR examined the latest workforce summary submitted by Ryan Companies, a stadium subcontractor: 21 Blacks, including one Black female hired as carpenter, two roofers, two pipefitters, two plumbers, two cement mason workers, two iron workers, one bricklayer, and nine laborers.

Tuttle admitted that sheet metal workers, pipefitters and plumbers of color were harder to find because these fields are more “technically advanced than the carpentry and laborer fields. We walked into this thing with our eyes wide open around specialty trades,” continued Tuttle. “However, when you talk about specialty trades, I know we had some ways to go. I think we did decent, but I really wished we could’ve done a little bit more in that area.”

Along with the stadium, there was also a project to construct a pedestrian bridge and skyways to connect it with the former Downtown East light rail station across Chicago Avenue, a new two-block park adjacent to the stadium, and parking ramps. Ryan reported that 14 of the 47 “minority” workers were hired from the 55411 ZIP Code. A total of 75 total workers were hired on the project.

The workforce as a result earned “an additional $2 million. There were a lot of moving pieces that made that happen, a lot of work on employment assistance through unions and contractors all working together, and we got it done,” said Kor.

Now that the stadium is up and running, what about the construction workers of color? Will they work on other Mortensen or Ryan projects?

“I have not seen any information that shows me whether or not those folk are working or not,” responded Kor. “I think there are some missed opportunities in tracking the workers and making sure that they are continuing to work after this project.”

“It’s up to the construction [companies] and the labor unions,” said Tuttle. “But it’s also up to our elected officials, the legislators, in making sure that there are opportunities for other projects. We got close to $6 million of construction going on Sixth Street alone and around the Twin Cities going all the way out to the Mayo Clinic Destination Center in Rochester over the next 10 years.

“When we talk about brothers and sisters of color having the opportunity to work, we need partners in ensuring they have [the] opportunity to work on public projects, making sure contractors play ball, but also for the private jobs where they don’t have specific [hiring] goals for minority and women participation. It’s a comprehensive responsibility,” said Tuttle.

“I would say yes, the Vikings stadium is a model” of how to have workforce diversity on a construction project, surmised Kor, who added that having a diverse workforce is being seen by many as important. “We are seeing pieces of this translated on other projects,” such as light rail, he pointed out. “We are seeing the Met Council using systems that were developed on the Vikings stadium for those projects.

“We are seeing that it is becoming more [common] for private companies to say that they want full [employment] on these projects,” continued Kor. “There already are private construction projects that people don’t know about and aren’t in the news but have [diversity workforce goals] attached to them.”

The proposed soccer stadium in St. Paul’s Midway has the potential to be like the Vikings stadium in ensuring workforce diversity. “Some contractors, not all, are getting better at meeting the goals, understanding how to meet the goals, and now expecting that this is something they have to do,” said Kor.

 

Next week: Who maintains the stadium’s upkeep?

Related Content:
Second installment: Minority workforce and subcontracting goals were exceeded
Third installment: Diverse cleaning crew charged with huge facility’s maintenance
Fourth installment: Vikings stadium: Boosters see clear benefits where skeptics see more empty promises
Fifth installmentVikings stadium payoff: Collaborators tout equity success in stadium construction
Sixth installment: North High victory Prep Bowl at Vikings stadium offered affordable look at facility
Seventh installment: 2019 Final Four planners aim high for diversity, inclusion

 

Charles Hallman welcomes reader responses to challman@spokesman-recorder.com.

About Charles Hallman

Charles Hallman is a contributing reporter and columnist at the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder. He can be reached at challman@spokesman-recorder.com

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