The public authority overseeing operations at the $1.1 billion U.S. Bank Stadium on Friday tapped Jim Farstad to serve as executive director again, the third transition in the position in less than a year.
Farstad has been working mostly behind the scenes as the chief technology consultant on the stadium for the past five years and briefly held the interim position after turmoil at the top a year ago.
Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority (MSFA) Chairman Mike Vekich nominated Farstad as the interim director for the $160,000-a-year position while the board searches for a replacement for Rick Evans, who announced a month ago that he is leaving for unspecified health reasons.
Evans said there is “nobody better qualified to do this” than Farstad. Evans departs in two weeks.
The turnover at the top of the agency with a $40 million annual operating budget started in February when Ted Mondale resigned from the executive director’s post amid backlash over his and former Chairwoman Michele Kelm-Helgen’s use of two luxury suites for their friends and family during the debut season of the stadium, which opened 17 months ago.
Farstad was appointed as the interim director before Evans was nominated and confirmed to the position.
The latest shuffle comes as the stadium is 51 days away from playing host to its biggest event yet, Super Bowl LII on Feb. 4. Although the NFL runs much of that operation, the MSFA ensures that the state-owned building and taxpayer interests are protected before, during and after the event.
Vekich said it was important to have an “open hiring process” for the next director. Vekich also recommended that a permanent director not be hired until after the Super Bowl.
The unanimous board approval for Farstad came minutes after the board was informed that the Minnesota Department of Human Rights had raised statewide goals at some agencies for hiring women from 6 percent to 20 percent.
“It’s going to be a challenge, but I think we’re up to it,” Evans said. Although women work in the MSFA office, the top job has been held only by white men.
The authority also approved spending up to $715,000 on four outside contractors in the coming year. All four have been working with the MSFA already.
Hammes Co.’s sports development division, which acts as the owner’s representative in construction matters, can be paid up to $315,000 in the coming year. Atomic Data, which provides IT support, was approved for up to $180,000 in 2018.
C.H. Skiem Consulting, which provides financial services, was approved for $120,000. RSM, which provides management services, was approved for up to $100,000.
Evans also announced that the Lockridge Grindal Nauen law firm would continue to be the “public face of the authority” as the liaison with the state government. The firm will be paid $8,000 a month.
The MSFA also appointed Jenn Hathaway as the data practices compliance authority for the agency. That means Hathaway is supposed to ensure data, documents and e-mails are maintained in a manner consistent with state law. She also now has authority to oversee the release of such documents when they are sought by members of the public, including the media.
Hathaway has been the communications director of the authority since its inception.