Don Poss, a trained civil engineer and tough-as-nails fiscal manager, guided construction of two NFL stadiums and a massive amateur sports center and oversaw operations in two north metro suburbs.
As the executive director of the Metropolitan Sports Facilities Commission (MSFC), Poss opened the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome, on time and on budget, in April 1982. He was recruited by Miami Dolphins owner Joe Robbie to do the same for his NFL team, and the Dolphins still play at Hard Rock Stadium.
Then in 1990, as Blaine city manager, Poss delivered the $20 million National Sports Center, a sprawling facility that became a popular hub for youth athletics, especially soccer.
Poss, of Brooklyn Center, died July 12 of complications from a fall in May, according to his wife, Ann. He was 86.
The couple, who were married for 64 years and raised three children, moved to the Twin Cities when he became city engineer for Brooklyn Center in 1960. They remained in the first home they purchased until they moved to senior apartments in 2003, Ann Poss said.
At work, Poss was a precise, hard-nosed, no-nonsense taskmaster who didn’t abide cost overruns or the distraction of office politics.
“When he said, ‘Keep it within budget,’ he meant it,” said Blaine Mayor Tom Ryan, a longtime friend and protégé.
Ann Poss said her husband wrote a detailed plan for what to do when he died. At the top of the list: Call 911 to confirm that he was indeed dead.
What he left out of his plans was a recitation of accomplishments that Ann Poss had asked of him. He wrote a short notice that included the barest of personal and professional facts.
“He was not flamboyant in life, and he sure as hell was not going to be in death,” Ann Poss said.
Poss first caught his future wife’s attention as a standout basketball player in his hometown of Onalaska, Wis. They met at a dance hall in La Crosse, where he started working after graduating from the University of Wisconsin- Madison.
Poss was the highly visible executive director of the MSFC, which planned and built the $55 million Dome. He recruited his eventual successor Jerry Bell, who would go on to become president of the Minnesota Twins and lead the long but successful effort to build Target Field, which opened in 2010.
“He was a buttoned-up, strait-laced kind of guy,” Bell said. “He was not political. I took care of that part of it.”
Before the Dome was constructed, Bell said that they had heard horror stories about cost overruns at other sports stadiums. Poss “just made up his mind that he wasn’t going to do that,” Bell said.
Ryan said Blaine officials recruited Poss to help the city juggle several new projects. Poss immediately cut out distractions such as city efforts to attract harness racing and build an amphitheater.
Poss left Blaine with a parting gift: a 15,000-square-foot senior center set to open this fall and built with funds set aside from an excess tax levy when he was city manager in 1988. To spend the money, six of the seven City Council members had to approve the project. Ryan said the nearly forgotten fund grew to about $12 million, half of which was withdrawn for the gigantic senior center.
Poss was amused when Ryan told him about the fund. “I can’t believe that elected officials kept their hands off that money,” Poss said, according to Ryan.
In recent years, Don and Ann Poss split their time between Minnesota and Phoenix. Besides his wife, he is survived by daughters Vicki DeLaittre of Phoenix and Susan Lucas of Blaine; a son, Dan of Wayzata; five grandchildren and a great-grandson. Services are private.