Mortenson Construction of Minneapolis was selected by the Metropolitan Sports Facilities Commission on Friday to build a proposed new retractable-roof stadium for the Minnesota Vikings -- if a stadium is ever built.

Mortenson and HKS Architects of Dallas were chosen to develop a design, a construction schedule and cost details that the commission can use to seek funding and legislative approval for the project, which would be built on the Metrodome site. The commission will pay about $2.5 million for this initial work.

"We are very pleased that we are moving forward and that the commission understands the sense of urgency,'' said Lester Bagley, vice president of public affairs for the Vikings.

Mortenson's selection extends a remarkable run for the company that in the past 20 years has built just about every major public and private professional and amateur sports facility in the Twin Cities, including the Target Center arena and the new Twins ballpark, Target Field, in Minneapolis.

"This is our back yard," said John Wood, a Mortenson vice president. "There's a little extra pride in building things here."

The company, which began as a family-run business in Minneapolis on April 1, 1954, has also become a serious player nationally and worldwide when it comes to sports facilities.

With annual revenues of $2.7 billion and 2,700 employees worldwide, the company is not only one of the top 40 general contractors in the country, but one of the top three or four sports facilities builders.

Mortenson competed for the job with a construction joint venture team of Kraus-Anderson along with Hunt and Turner. The commission members favored Mortenson by a vote of 5-2.

HKS, chosen over three other competitors, was the architect for the recently completed Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis and is the architect on the Dallas Cowboys stadium under construction. The commission voted 5-2 for HKS, with two votes for Ellerbe Becket, which has an office in Minneapolis.

The Metropolitan Sports Facilities Commission, which is charged with preserving and protecting major league sports franchises, would like to have a new stadium for the Vikings by August 2012. The Vikings' contract with the commission expires at the end of 2011. The team and commission want to have a new facility underway by 2010. However, until funding is secured, that is uncertain.

Accidental tourists

For its first 30 years, Mortenson did very little with sports construction.

That all changed in the late 1980s, when it bid on and won the $104 million contract to build Target Center for the Timberwolves of the NBA.

Wood said he and a colleague thought the company should bid on the project because it was the biggest local project going at the time and because sports construction seemed to be a lucrative niche market to pursue.

Mortenson was able to bring the project in on time and under budget, which Wood said was rare at the time for building sports facilities.

He said the good will that the company generated with that project led to other projects, including the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, the National Sports Center in Blaine, the new University of Minnesota campus football stadium, and the new Twins ballpark in downtown Minneapolis.

Nationally, the company also has built Coors Field and the Pepsi Center in Denver, the Edward Jones Dome in St. Louis and, most recently, the University of Louisville football stadium in Kentucky.

The sports construction business has proved lucrative enough that Wood said it now accounts for about 20 percent of the company's annual revenues, or about $540 million.

In May, Mortenson added another sports venue to its project list as general contractor and construction manager of a $78 million expansion of the Duluth Entertainment Convention Center, home of the University of Minnesota Duluth hockey teams.

"The Mortenson brand brings tremendous credibility," Dave St. Peter, president of the Minnesota Twins, said this week. "It's a local brand that's involved in the community, and that's a strong positive."

Stadium's uncertain future

Funding and approval for a Vikings stadium are far from certain, but that is not stopping the Sports Facilities Commission from moving ahead with selecting companies to design and build a new facility.

The commission and the Vikings have been trying for years to get the Legislature to approve public funding for a new stadium.

The commission hopes that having the design and preliminary construction phase of the project done might make it easier to get that approval this coming year from legislators.

"We need to get this done," said commission chairman Roy Terwilliger. "It is critically important that we have that discussion and decide."

The sense of urgency is greater this year because with the Vikings' lease for the Metrodome up in 2011, commissioners are worried that the team could make a "business decision" and leave Minnesota if a deal for a new stadium is not in place before then.

Terwilliger said it will take 32 to 36 months to build a new stadium. If a stadium deal is not completed in 2010, then time could run out on building a stadium before the lease expires.

"Not having an agreement certainly would complicate things," said Terwilliger, a former state senator. "I hope we don't get to that point. The Vikings are a business. They could make a business decision."• 612-673-4280 • 612-673-1711