Lester Bagley, the Vikings executive vice president in charge of public affairs and stadium development, reports that while construction costs for the new stadium have gone up, overall, the team believes that it started building at a good time.
The stadium was originally budgeted to cost $975 million with $498 million coming from the public. While the public contribution has stayed the same, the total cost to date has gone up to $1.027 billion, with the Wilf family paying the extra $52 million.
The Vikings recently had to contribute $2.4 million because of rising material costs, and the word is that if they want the first-class stadium that they set out to build, they could have to add $22 million more before its 2016 opening.
Even so, owners Zygi, Mark and Leonard Wilf haven’t backtracked on their promise to build the best stadium in the NFL, and they have written the checks without a whimper. Still, Bagley says that overall, the team has done well with construction costs.
“We were fortunate,” he said. “I think there’s some challenges in the market right now on cement and other materials, but we got in at the right time. We purchased our materials a year or so ago — enough time to get them locked down and secured. Now I think there’s some challenges with concrete that is driving some prices up in the market. I think there’s a lot of construction going on. There are cranes all over downtown, maybe the most that have ever been in the construction boom that’s going on in downtown right now and St. Paul.”
Bagley added that the Vikings should have no problem filling seats for the new stadium after playing at the smaller TCF Bank Stadium for two years.
“The weather issue is gone,” Bagley said. “There’s no factor there. We have a stadium that is connected via skyway, so our fans can leave their jackets in the car, if they want, in the new stadium and take the Minneapolis skyway system into the new stadium.
“The space is the same number of seats as the Metrodome, but it’s twice the size. There’s a lot of places to hang out, lots of great fan spaces, gathering spaces, it’s just going to be a great experience for fans. They’re going to show up for the spectacle, for the experience, and for the stadium as well as the team.”
Bagley said the skyway will start off being connected from the north side of the stadium to downtown Minneapolis, adding that down the road there might be additional skyway links elsewhere around the building.
Right on time
Bagley said that stadium construction is right on schedule and there doesn’t appear to be anything to push the opening date back.
“July of 2016, we’re on schedule for sure, they’re working today, working around the clock,” he said. “They don’t work in the middle of the night but they work every day of the week. Sunday is a little lighter crew, but they don’t stop.
“They have about 700-plus workers on the construction site right now, and in the next couple of months it will be close to 1,100. … It’s on schedule. It’ll be enclosed next fall, so they’ll start to work inside by the end of the year. By this fall of 2015 we’ll start to enclose it and by the end of the year they’ll start working inside for the finishing touches over the last six months of the project. About 18 months to go.”
Sales going well
Bagley said the Vikings believe they easily will sell out their personal seat licenses, but that will still leave a certain number of seats available for sale to the general public.
“We’ll have our seat license package sold out, and then there will be about 20,000 seats that will not be licenses and sold on an annual basis,” he said. “We’ll hold back 20,000 every year, so people have a chance to see the Vikings.”
Meanwhile, Steve LaCroix, Vikings executive vice president and chief marketing officer, told me the other day that there will be no increase in ticket prices for the 2015 season on the University of Minnesota campus.
• Rob Moor, the CEO of the Timberwolves, reports that the first part of the $150 million remodeling plan for Target Center will start this summer when a new scoreboard will be installed. Moor also reported that the Wolves’ part of the Mayo Clinic Square in the old Block E building will be available in May for the team to use.
• Look for the Wolves to announce soon that former star Christian Laettner will return to the Twin Cities in mid-March to help conduct youth basketball clinics in conjunction with the team and also to make some appearances on behalf of the team. … The Wolves merchandise pro shop at Target Center enjoyed their largest night of sales in four years on the night of the game vs. Cleveland on Jan. 31.
• Robb Akey, who spent last season as Vikings assistant defensive line coach, left the team after one year to join the Washington Redskins as defensive line coach. Klint Kubiak, who was the Vikings assistant wide receiver/quality control coach, has joined the University of Kansas staff as wide receivers coach.
• Watching Tyus Jones play several games for Duke on television, I am convinced that with the former Apple Valley point guard in the Gophers lineup, they would not have lost all of those close games in the final moments. He is that good. … As for the other two members of Minnesota’s “Big Three” from last year, Stanford’s Reid Travis (DeLaSalle) and UNLV’s Rashad Vaughn (Cooper) have had their seasons slowed by injury, and Vaughn is expected to miss the rest of the season because of a left knee injury.
• Sanjay Lumpkin, the Benilde-St. Margaret’s product and son of former Gophers football player Sean Lumpkin, had four rebounds, two blocks, and a steal and played 32 minutes in Northwestern’s 66-61 overtime victory over Iowa on Sunday. Northwestern is 2-10 in the Big Ten, breaking a 10-game losing streak, and Lumpkin, a sophomore, is averaging 5.1 points and 4.0 rebounds per game. The Wildcats visit Williams Arena on Wednesday.
• Former Gophers forward Trevor Mbakwe is averaging 10.1 points and 5.8 rebounds in 23.0 minutes per game for Brose Baskets in Bamberg, Germany. … Ralph Sampson III is playing well for the Maine Red Claws in the NBA Development League, averaging 5.7 points, 5.0 rebounds and 1.7 blocks. … Also in the D-League is Malik Smith, averaging 3.5 points for the Iowa Energy.
• Sam Dower, the Osseo and Gonzaga product, is averaging 13.4 points and 6.9 rebounds per game playing in Latvia.
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