Former Minneapolis Mayor Sharon Sayles Belton has joined the Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority (MSFA), the board that oversees U.S. Bank Stadium, following her appointment by Mayor Jacob Frey last month.
Sayles Belton said Friday the stadium can "deliver value back to the city and when citizens serve on that board, they can help make the connection." She said she's attended a few galas and a couple football games at the 5-year-old, publicly owned facility.
"In the early stages, I'll learn and hopefully contribute to a more efficient and effective operation," she said. "I'm also interested in the power of the facility to bring people into downtown and have a broader experience."
She was appointed to serve the remainder of Barbara Butts Williams' four-year term, which ends Dec. 31, 2023. It wasn't clear why Butts Williams was stepping away from the MSFA board, and she did not respond to requests for comment. She was appointed to the board by then-Mayor R.T. Rybak in 2012.
Frey sent written notice of Sayles Belton's appointment to Board Chair Michael Vekich on Aug. 17, but it wasn't announced until she had attended her first MSFA board meeting Thursday — where she jumped in with questions on topics ranging from bid solicitations to COVID-19 preparedness and capital planning.
Asked whether Frey had sought applicants for the post, a spokeswoman said Sayles Belton "was one of a small pool of people considered for the appointment. Her strong leadership experience and qualifications made her the right person to join the board."
In his letter to Vekich, Frey noted Sayles Belton was the first woman and African American to serve as mayor of Minneapolis, a position she held from 1994 to 2001.
Frey cited her long career in public service, beginning as a probation officer with the state Department of Corrections, and her recent experience in the private sector as vice president of government affairs and community relations at Thomson Reuters in Eagan. He called her a "passionate advocate for the city of Minneapolis and well-equipped to hit the ground running to represent the interests of the city and the MSFA."
Sayles Belton, like Frey a DFLer, is publicly supporting the mayor's re-election bid.
The MSFA board has five members; three are appointed by the governor — including the board chair — and two by the mayor.
Besides Vekich and Sayles Belton, the board includes Bill McCarthy, appointed by Rybak in 2012; Tony Sertich, appointed by Gov. Mark Dayton in 2015; and Angela Burns Finney, appointed by Gov. Tim Walz in 2019.
U.S. Bank Stadium, which opened in 2016, cost $1.1 billion to build — $500 million of which was public money. ASM Global, a private company, books and operates the building. The main tenants are the Vikings.
The MSFA board approves the budget and major contracts on the advice of Vekich and executive director James Farstad. Board members generally sign off on spending decisions without questions or public debate.
Vekich is the only board member to get a salary, but other members receive a $55 per diem for board meetings and access to tickets at stadium events for "marketing purposes."
Butts Williams, McCarthy and Sertich were all members of the MSFA in 2016 when the board drew criticism for using luxury suites to entertain friends and family at games and concerts. The practice ended after it was publicly reported.
Rochelle Olson • 612-673-1747