The public overseers of U.S. Bank Stadium and a key legislative panel agreed Wednesday on the need for greater control of management and security contracts in the 15-month-old building.
Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority (MSFA) Chairman Mike Vekich and Executive Director Rick Evans said they’re working on enhanced accountability over third-party operators, notably the building’s security providers who were hired by SMG, the building’s operator.
“I’m getting the sense SMG doesn’t have anybody checking their work,” State Government Finance Committee Chairwoman Sarah Anderson said after the meeting.
Anderson, R-Plymouth, convened the committee to discuss operations at the $1.1 billion stadium after the August ouster of Chicago-based firm Monterrey Security. The 90-minute session followed a two-hour meeting last month where SMG General Manager Patrick Talty was aggressively questioned about Monterrey’s problematic work that included allowing unlicensed and improperly trained workers to perform security work.
SMG is the global entertainment company hired to market, manage and book the building for events beyond Vikings games. SMG hires the security vendor.
At the latest hearing, Anderson pressed stadium officials on when and how they found out about the problems with Monterrey and why they weren’t quicker to address them. She also questioned why the public board, the MSFA, wasn’t required to sign off on the hiring of Monterrey even though the contract was worth more than $4 million in the first year alone. Typically, the five-person MSFA board must be asked to sign off on expenditures above $250,000.
The answer: SMG held the Monterrey contract — the security piece was a subcontract to SMG’s much broader operations — so board approval wasn’t needed.
Anderson is the prime legislative advocate for more public oversight at the stadium, which is the biggest public-private project in state history. In the past year, the stadium operations have been turbulent with two top managers resigning and then the ouster of Monterrey. The chairwoman pointed to recent attacks in Las Vegas and New York as cause for special attention on security.
The contract was in place before Vekich and Evans came aboard. Their two predecessors resigned over backlash to their misuse of publicly owned luxury suites.
Anderson sought assurance from Vekich that the stadium isn’t teetering toward trouble. He said “the operations of U.S. Bank Stadium are certainly not broken.”
Vekich also said he welcomes additional oversight from the Legislature and will propose new requirements, standards and performance goals for contractors.
While Anderson and others expressed confidence in Vekich and Evans, their goal is to ensure their eventual successors “know what they need to do,” said Rep. Bob Vogel, R-Elko New Market.
Vekich said “there is strong oversight right now and there will continue to be.”
Talty wasn’t at the hearing but said in a statement, “There is currently very close oversight of SMG’s operations at U.S. Bank Stadium. We welcome this oversight and will continue this strong relationship between the MSFA and SMG.”
An attempt to restructure the MSFA oversight panel flatlined in the final hours of the 2017 legislative session. Anderson said she expects to resurrect the effort and noted that three of the five current MSFA board members have remained on the panel despite oversight problems under previous management. Those three are Bill McCarthy, Tony Sertich and Barbara Butts Williams.
A representative for Monterrey also issued a statement saying its “expansion” led to some “administrative mistakes” that were being used “for selective enforcement against the only minority-owned security firm in the NFL.”
In addition to losing the contract at U.S. Bank Stadium, Monterrey was fired last month as the security provider to the Buffalo Bills. Monterrey still runs security at Soldier Field in Chicago.
Whelan Event Services and G4S now provide security at U.S. Bank Stadium.