M.A. Mortenson not up to the task for an NFL stadium


Construction manager track record in construction: junior varsity


In these columns a year ago, I called attention to the concerns making the Minnesota Vikings uncomfortable with the selection of M.A. Mortenson as construction manager for the now over $1 billion Vikings stadium, concerns shared also with the NFL. Nothing against Mortenson. It’s a really nice square peg, but they are trying to fit it into a round hole and it doesn’t fit.

Mortenson, great at smaller venues (see below), is out of its league with the Vikings, lacking the expertise, experience, and success history with projects of this size and magnitude. Contrast this with those the Star Tribune reported as rejected (January 21, 2013): Hunt Construction, of Scottsdale, AZ, builder of nearly 50 professional sports venues, including NFL stadiums (two with retractable roofs), and Skanska, the international firm that has also built NFL stadiums. Mortenson has built none.

But Minnesota politics dictated Mortenson receive the project. It is becoming clear each day that the Vikings were correct in their suspicions that M.A. Mortenson was junior varsity and not first-string senior varsity as Hunt and Skanska.

The “accident” a couple of weeks ago of the massive beam falling during demolition, out of sequence (resulting in a change to dynamiting the rest), shows they were unprepared, couldn’t fix their plan, and thus resorted to dynamite. They currently lack an integrated plan.

The conclusion is clear: M.A. Mortenson has never undertaken a project of this size and magnitude (see list below), raising serious questions about the investment and trust made on behalf of Mortenson by the elected representatives of the tax payers of Minnesota that was forced onto the Vikings and the NFL.

The decision to change — in mid-stream — the method of demolition of the Metro Dome should worry investors, bond holders, and others who have a stake in this stadium and now worry about the consequences if these and future delays prevent on-schedule completion. The fact that Mortenson now talks about a second plan, one that is not as of the writing of this column in place, is troublesome to bondholders and other investors, now having to wonder what additional costs will be incurred and additional moneys needed. At no point in time during the legislative and planning process was there ever a discussion involving a second plan protocol.

July 2016 is the stated date of completion. I continue to maintain that just as in the case of delays with the specialty steel now being prepared in Luxemburg, certain political powers knew that this stadium would not be ready until the year 2017 or 2018. That’s the reason there was discussion to avoid a four-year operational contract, as with TCF stadium. Here are the “largest” of Mortenson contracts. Size (or lack of size) matters:

2013: Pinnacle Bank Arena, Lincoln, NB, $161 million, 15,147 seats

2012: St. Paul, Union Depot restoration: $243 million.

2011: Mortenson to build largest concentrated photovoltaic (CPV) solar power plant in the world (solar arrays are very different from stadiums)

2010: Target Field, $412 million, 40,000 seats, open air

2009: Third largest sports arena in China, $220 million; will seat 18,000.

2009: Gophers’ TCF Stadium, $288 million, 50,000 seats, open air

2008: the $139 million IBCT Company Operations Facilities project at Ft. Bliss, TX, “one of the company’s largest design-build projects,” consisting of 12 separate buildings, with operational support space for more than 7,000 soldiers.

Mortenson’s Vikings stadium claim: “7,500 construction-related jobs and…substantial business opportunity for hundreds of local subcontractors and suppliers.” We still await diversity numbers.

Stay tuned.


For Ron’s hosted radio and TV show’s broadcast times, solution papers, books and archives, go to www.TheMinneapolisStory.com. To order his books go to Beacon on the Hill Press.