Collaborators tout equity success in stadium construction
Fourth in multi-part occasional 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 has sought answers to these and related questions.
Designing a construction equity plan for the Vikings stadium, the State’s largest construction project to date, was a “mind blowing task,” said those directly involved in enacting that plan. The Stadium Equity Plan, a collaboration with the Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority (MSFA), the Metropolitan Council, the City of Minneapolis, state legislators, community members and the Minnesota Vikings, that came together in 2012 to set equity workforce goals, “was not a joke,” recalled MSF
A Equity Consultant Alex Tittle during the October 6 Stadium Equity Awards program at the stadium.
Speaking to large number of invited guests who participated in the gathering, including Gov. Mark Dayton, State Senator Bobby Joe Champion, and other notables who had a direct hand in the new stadium’s present existence, Tittle declared, “It took the legislature, contractors, architects and leaders of all walks of our state to get this thing, the Equity Program, to be successful.”
“The vision was clear from the start,” added MSFA Vice Chair Dr. Barbara Butts Williams. “Our desire [was] the stadium equity plan.”
Tittle, in a video presentation, showed 37 percent of workforce hours going to minority workers, which exceeded the State’s and Hennepin County’s 32 percent workforce hiring goals for publicly funded construction projects. The minority workforce breakdown was: Latino (36 percent, 504,442 hours), Blacks (35 percent, 492,043), Native American (16 percent, 230,732), Asian (eight percent, 113,296), and mixed race (four percent, 58,200). Women comprised nine percent of workers (358,967 hours) and veterans four percent (165,778 hours).
All workers hailed from Minnesota, he noted. “We don’t have to go anywhere else,” said Tittle.
“They [the Stadium Authority] had a real intentional effort,” observed Gov. Dayton in a brief MSR interview. He said the Vikings stadium project can serve as a role model “and an example for all the rest of Minneapolis and Minnesota that if you set your goals high enough and work at it, [you can] even surpass it. It can set a standard for other construction projects in Minnesota that can be accomplished if you make the effort to do so.”
State Sen. Bobby Joe Champion applauded Dayton for meeting with him when the stadium bill was first introduced in the State Legislature. “The governor and I had conversations about the stadium,” including the need for inclusion and equity language included in the bill, and he agreed, recalled the senator.
“No one person could have accomplished this monumental task,” stated Tittle on the 37 percent workforce numbers, which included 400 workers who were hired from targeted zip codes in Minneapolis and 74 workers who were hired from employment assistance firms.
“Alex has done an outstanding job. We would not be here without his outstanding leadership,” praised Butts Williams.
“Every place we go, people are talking about this project,” said Minnesota Vikings Chief Operating Officer Kevin Warren. “The single most thing people want to talk about is the stadium and its design to help people who needed our help. This project is changing people’s lives. It is giving people hope, economic resources…for people who look like me.”
Patrick Talty, the stadium general manager, reported that nearly 800 of the 1,677 part-time and full-time workers currently employed at the Vikings stadium are Blacks or other people of color. He added that his staff is working with at least 20 community organizations “to help us find workers to work here.”
“Roughly 70 percent” of the 1,027 total stadium employees are Blacks and other people of color, reported Aramark GM Jamie Hodgson.
It is even more important that equity continue to be the focus now that the stadium is open, stated Minnesota Black Chamber of Commerce (MBCC) President Lea Hargett. She told the MSR, “The next step is post-stadium business. The stadium is going to be here 50 years or hundreds of years. We’ve got to make sure we get our fair share.”
“It’s important for our whole management staff, from the top down,” to ensure that equity is at the stadium, said Talty to the MSR afterwards.
Warren told the MSR, “It’s a great example [of] when people pull together, make their minds up that they want to do the right thing for the right reasons, no matter how small the project or how large the project is. It’s a blessing to work on this project.”
“I wanted 60 percent, and people didn’t think we could reach 32 percent,” said Tittle to the MSR afterwards. “I’m happy to say that 37 percent was accomplished.”
Even though nearly two-fifths of the workers were people of color, it is even more important that those workers are still employed. “We still have work to do,” surmised Tittle, “but we know that the days of excuses are over. I am proud of our state, our [elected] leaders, our community leaders and most of all, Kevin Warren and [MSFA Chair] Michele Kelm-Helgen, because they stayed diligent and serious. They challenged me to hold people accountable, and they allowed me the latitude to do that.”
Charles Hallman welcomes reader responses to firstname.lastname@example.org.
First installment: Minority workforce and subcontracting goals were exceeded
Second installment: Diverse cleaning crew charged with huge facility’s maintenance
Charles Hallman is a contributing reporter and award-winning sports columnist at the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder.