U.S. Bank Stadium needs massive curtains to block the sunlight during the 2019 NCAA Final Four — and they won’t be cheap.
In a request sent out two days after the Super Bowl, Feb. 6, Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority (MSFA) Chairman Mike Vekich sought proposals for the design, manufacture, installment and testing of “blackout curtain drapery” for the stadium. And the MSFA wants the curtains to be reusable for other events, including concerts.
“The primary use will be for the 2019 NCAA Men’s Basketball Final Four,” the request said. “Permanently installed hardware to facilitate repeated use of the system is preferred where possible.”
In an interview Wednesday, Vekich declined to provide a price range for the project, although he said, “It will be expensive — obviously.”
It’s truly a tall task, because U.S. Bank Stadium was designed to be airy and light. The 19-month-old building has 200,000 square feet of glass, according to the MSFA website. Then there’s the roof, half of which is a translucent plastic polymer. All the light sources must be draped to meet the NCAA specifications. The NCAA requires lighting to be consistent for the shoot-arounds and the games of all four teams, regardless of time of day.
The MSFA’s current budget for 2018 building improvements is projected to be $7.25 million. Vekich said the blackout drapery would come from that account. As to whether the MSFA would seek more money from the Legislature, meaning taxpayers, to cover the cost of the drapes, Vekich said, “At this point, I don’t see that.”
The curtain requirement hasn’t received more than a passing mention and no debate by the board. MSFA spokeswoman Jenn Hathaway pointed to minutes from two meetings in 2016 and one in 2017. The first mention in February 2016 is the longest, referring to “a blackout and half-house curtaining system.” No cost or scope was discussed.
At the 2017 meeting, the board received a memo about an anticipated capital expense of $2 million for window washing equipment as well as a “blackout curtain, and other expenses.” Hathaway said the window washing equipment wasn’t purchased because it wasn’t deemed to be immediately necessary.
Next year’s proposed capital budget will be presented to the board in the next 60 days, Hathaway said. The MSFA “will not have any expenditure on the blackout curtain until the beginning of our next fiscal year,” she said. The fiscal year begins July 1.
Vikings vice president Lester Bagley said the team, which is the building’s main tenant, was in the dark.
“We’ve not been made aware of the specifics related to this request,” Bagley said.
In response to Bagley’s comment that he had not been apprised of the proposal, Vekich said, “That’s their response. … They were aware the RFP (request for proposal) was out.”
The stadium is owned by the state, and the MSFA oversees the building on behalf of the taxpayers. Taxpayers paid almost $500 million for the stadium, the largest public-private project in state history. The Vikings paid $600 million and continue to contribute to the capital improvement funds.
In 2014, two years before the building opened in August 2016, the Vikings and local organizers won rights to host the Super Bowl in February 2018. In a separate proposal, the MSFA received the rights to host the Final Four in 2019. That effort is being overseen by Minnesota Sports Corporation, led by Kate Mortenson. She wouldn’t comment on any aspect of the drapery, including whether her organization would help cover the cost.
“We’re letting the stadium speak to all those in-venue pieces,” Mortenson said. She is married to David Mortenson, chairman of the construction company that built the stadium.
Tom McGinnis, senior associate athletics director at the University of Minnesota, who is also on the board of Minnesota Sports Corporation overseeing the Final Four effort, said the NCAA and the Final Four negotiators were transparent during the bid process for the event.
McGinnis said the NCAA wants the same lighting for all the Final Four shoot-arounds as they do for the games.
“They want to make sure they’re creating the same environment,” McGinnis said. “So it’s something that we were aware of throughout the entire bid process and when we were granted the bid.”