The long-awaited groundbreaking for the $975 million Vikings stadium is tentatively set for October 2013, an official with the Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority said Friday.

The timetable, announced by authority chairwoman Michele Kelm-Helgen at the board's morning meeting, is the most specific to date for the start of the project, to be built on the Metrodome site in downtown Minneapolis.

It's also a bit later than the target date mentioned earlier this year by authority and team officials, who initially projected groundbreaking to take place sometime during the third quarter of 2013.

"The project is on time and on schedule, and at this point, we need to continue to make sure it's delivered on time and on budget," said Lester Bagley, Vikings vice president of stadium development and public affairs.

The groundbreaking date was announced as the authority, the public body working with the Vikings to oversee stadium development, began soliciting bids for what will be its most important hire: a construction management firm, which will be responsible for building the 65,000-seat stadium. The firm will establish the budget for what can be designed and built and will lay out a construction timeline. It also will be asked to provide a guaranteed maximum price for construction.

Bagley said the groundbreaking date could change based on what the construction manager decides.

"Until the construction manager is hired, we won't know the exact timeline," he said. "As soon as they start to dig in, they will come to us with a more concrete schedule. But we think it's safe to say it's fourth quarter of 2013 for groundbreaking. And most importantly, we're on track for an August 2016 opening."

In soliciting bids for the construction management work, the authority and team set a "target" cost of $690 million for building the stadium. That doesn't include costs for land acquisition, parking and skyway features or furniture and fixtures.

The rest of the $975 million will be spent on "soft" costs, or sums paid for design, legal or consulting fees, Kelm-Helgen said.

Firms bidding for the construction manager contract must submit proposals by Jan. 8. The authority and team hope to narrow the list by Jan. 11 and announce a hire by Jan. 25.

Steve Maki, director of facilities and engineering for the MSFA, said he expects a number of nationally known firms to compete for the contract.

"It is the single largest sports-related project coming out at this time," he said. "And it has no real competition in terms of other projects, in terms of timing."

Kelm-Helgen said the first schematic design of the stadium is expected to be unveiled by early March.

Richard Meryhew • 612-673-4425