Stadium's 'fun part' begins now

  • Article by: RICHARD MERYHEW , Star Tribune
  • Updated: May 14, 2012 - 5:42 AM

For the Vikings, planning and construction timelines crucial to opening their new home in 2016.

After years of lobbying, the Minnesota Vikings are on the verge of finally getting a new stadium.

Now comes a different kind of scramble.

Long before construction crews move in, dozens of tasks -- from picking a stadium governing board to the hiring of architects and builders -- must be addressed with urgency if the team hopes to break ground next spring and complete the nearly $1 billion project in time for the 2016 NFL season.

"That's a pretty tight timeline as these projects go," said John Wood, senior vice president for Mortenson Construction, the construction manager for the Twins' Target Field and TCF Bank Stadium at the University of Minnesota. "There is not a lot of room for delays."

Hours after legislators signed off on the $975 million stadium deal late last week, Vikings officials began huddling with Gov. Mark Dayton and Metropolitan Sports Facilities Commission leaders to map out a construction timeline for the massive development that will reshape the downtown Minneapolis skyline.

Lester Bagley, the team's point man on the project, said officials will meet again this week after Dayton signs the stadium bill to hammer out the details of what comes next.

"We've been looking forward to this moment," Bagley said. "Our owners are developers, and they are excited because to them, this is the fun part. They've got a vision for what they want the facility to look like and they are anxious to dig in."

What comes next

Jeff Anderson, a Vikings spokesman, said on Twitter late last week that it will take roughly a year for the design and prep work, "followed by three years to build" the stadium.

During that time, the Vikings will play at least one season at TCF Bank Stadium, with the Metrodome razed to make way for the completion of the new stadium.

But following through on that timeline will depend on dozens of decisions big and small that will be made in the coming weeks and months.

"You've got tons of elements and $975 million," said Ted Mondale, chairman of the Metropolitan Sports Facilities Commission and Dayton's chief negotiator on the stadium. "Put all those together, and that's sort of the work."

The first hurdle will be winning approval from the 13-member Minneapolis City Council, which has expressed support for the project, but by the slimmest margin -- seven in favor, six against.

Assuming the council approves, Dayton and Mayor R.T. Rybak must then appoint five people to a newly created sports authority to replace the current Metropolitan Sports Facilities Commission and work with the Vikings on nearly every phase of the project.

The parties will decide everything from the architect and construction manager to where the stadium will sit on the property and whether it will have a retractable roof.

Launching environmental impact studies, initiating negotiations to acquire nearby properties and sizing up what can and can't be done on the 33-acre site also will be part of the task.

"There is a year's worth of work before you break ground," Mondale said. "There's a lot of detail here that needs to get worked out. But basically, we start slow, put the authority together and see how that runs."

Dan Kenney, executive director of the Minnesota Ballpark Authority, the public body that owns Target Field, said the big challenge for the Vikings will simply be "getting this new authority up and running. "They are not sexy steps," Kenney said of the decisions ahead. "But they are important."

'Enormous undertaking'

Sam Grabarski, president of the Minneapolis Downtown Council, said the project's size and scope make it imperative that officials move quickly to meet their 2016 target date for opening.

"That might not seem like it's just around the corner, but it's very much around the corner if you understand there are no designs to work on yet and no architect or construction company selected," he said.

The bill approved by legislators calls for building a 65,000-seat stadium that could be expanded to handle 72,000 fans. It would include 7,500 club seats, 150 suites and space for gift shops, restaurants and an NFL team museum and Hall of Fame.

The stadium would have a fixed roof, but the team has an option of installing a retractable cover if it chooses.

"It's an enormous undertaking," Grabarski said, adding that the stadium will cost three times the sum needed to erect a 50-story skyscraper. "It's one of the largest enclosed facilities ever conceived. And it will be some time before we see anything like it again."

Wood of Mortenson Construction said the project would probably be "fast tracked," meaning crews could work on the project's foundations and superstructure during the early months of construction while more intricate interior design work was being completed.

Target Field and TCF Bank Stadium were both fast-track projects.

But even before that decision is made, Mondale said he believes the Vikings "are way ahead of other projects," in part because the site has been used as a major league sports facility for decades.

"Target Field had a lot of issues," he said. "But this one, there are no bad soils, we own the property already. We can get 55,000 people in and out of here on the roads -- we've been doing it for 30 years. And we've got the base architectural design of the building."

While the bidding for work is months away, the promise of thousands of jobs has sparked excitement across the state.

Wood calls the project one of the most significant developments in his 37 years in the Twin Cities construction industry. "I can't think of another time that a project like this has been so desperately needed and provided such a shot in the arm."

Harry Melander, president of the Minnesota Building and Construction Trades Council, which represents more than 50,000 workers, estimates that the stadium will create "close to 4 million work hours.

"It's a huge source of employment for our folks," he said. "Projects like this feed tons of families. And that's really what it's all about."

Richard Meryhew • 612-673-4425

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  • NEXT STEPS

    Two actions stand between the Vikings and a stadium:

    Dayton's signature

    Gov. Mark Dayton has 10 days to sign the bill passed by the House and Senate, but he is expected to sign it in the next few days, possibly as soon as Monday.

    Minneapolis approval

    The City Council must approve the plan and funding. The next regular meeting is scheduled for May 25, but Mayor R.T. Rybak could call a meeting earlier. It will take seven yes votes to pass.

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