Will the stadium come in on time?


Accidents, mistrust, and internal fighting

ThroughMyEyesnewWill the Vikings stadium be ready by July 1, 2016? We wonder, given the internal strife at the Minnesota Sports Facility Authority (MSFA) and its deep wounds of accusations and mistrust that have surfaced about mismanagement and miscalculations. And what other potential delays from major accidents, acts of nature, or shipping of materials?

The stadium needs a competent and exacting Sports Authority to deal with the turmoil around former State Senator and MSFA Treasurer Duane Benson’s resignation from the MSFA, and his accusations of mismanagement and mishandling of funds leading to cost overruns.

(New Vikings stadium under construction)
(New Vikings stadium under construction)

In our book, The Minneapolis Story, we reported findings of the July 2000 Journal of The American Planning Association (p. 132). Cost overruns were the norm, averaging 28 percent for the 258 large construction projects sampled between 1910-1998, on a billion-dollar stadium that means $280 million.

Our book was handed personally to, among others, the Minneapolis mayor, Minneapolis city council (all but two council members returned it, unwrapped, unread), the governor’s office, the University of Minnesota, the Humphrey Center, the Vikings, the Star Tribune, the NAACP, and the Minneapolis Urban League (the latter two urging folks not to buy or read the book). So this is not new.

Who will pay for cost overruns? The legislation says the contractor, but contractor Mortensen is suing not to pay, demanding arbitration and mediation in the hopes of being relieved from any obligation to cover cost overruns. In the meantime, the Star Tribune and others have not reported a firm number regarding cost overruns to date.

Are recent accidents due to the desperation to meet the July 1, 2016 deadline? Mortenson, who has quite a sweetheart deal, is not making payroll; it’s been shifted to the tax payer. Just what is the sweetheart deal with Mortenson?

We wonder whether Sports Facility’s $30 million slush fund will be deflated before April 2016, as is now being rumored. Departed MSFA Board Treasurer Duane Benson, who was berated as untrustworthy and a liar, is now clearly seen as having told the truth about the construction lies and deceptions.

A delay of 10 days of the 2016 opening, let alone 25-30 days or more, would be disastrous. The legislative oversight committee and the Star Tribune have been extremely quiet.

What are the contingency plans, if any, if the stadium is not ready for the first pre-season game in August 2016? We know what happens to Mortenson: pay $5 million for the delay as well as almost $5 million per game not played in the new stadium.

Decades long background clues are provided in Stadium Games: Fifty Years of Big League Greed and Bush League Boondoggles, by Star Tribune reporter Jay Weiner (The University of Minnesota Press, 2000). Also see my comments on Stadium Games, The Minneapolis Story, pp. 258-261. Weiner made clear the villains were not the NFL and Vikings team owners, but Minnesota officials and legislators and the Minneapolis officials and city council. Vikings current ownership is why the team is still in Minnesota, bucking what key “leaders” wanted over a decade ago: leave town.

Ted Mondale admitted in open session that few Blacks were hired in the construction of the Gophers’ and Twins’ stadiums, but that it would be different with the Vikings Stadium. He lied. The numbers reported of Blacks hired have been false.

So much time and effort has been put into avoiding highly skilled laborers and managers who are Black, that the eyes of oversight have been distracted, taking their eyes off of the prize of completing the Vikings stadium on time and within budget.

Stay tuned.