Beer, food and Wi-Fi topped the agenda for the Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority’s monthly meeting Friday as the panel got updates on the building now 87 percent complete.
“How do you make sure it’s all going to work before the first big event?” Commissioner John Griffith asked Jamie Hodgson, general manager of Aramark, the company that will run concessions at the 66,800-seat stadium set to open in July.
Everyone chuckled at the question about the herculean task ahead of Hodgson, who gave a lengthy answer that boiled down to a word: Planning. Hodgson said he’s been in regular contact with his counterpart at Houston’s NRG Stadium, but said the new Vikings facility will be a challenge because of the expanded coterie of suites.
Both he and Jim Farstad, the stadium’s technology consultant, gave their first extended public updates on the project, an indication of how the rapid progression of work on the $1.1 billion building in Downtown East. The U.S. Bank Stadium is the largest public-private partnership in state history with taxpayers covering just under $500 million of the cost.
Hodgson talked about the challenges of servicing the building that include the high security at NFL games, but also the unique structure of seats.
Instead of two rings of suites like older buildings, “You’ve got eight pods of suites with eight pantries and eight management staffs,” he said.
This spring, Hodgson said Aramark will begin hiring the 1,700 workers necessary to run concessions. Farstad said there will be 600 points of sale in the building including 39 concession stands and 50 to 70 portable food carts.
Hodgson said he’s working on solidifying the 15 to 20 partnerships with local restaurants for the food and there will be familiar names, larger partners who are well-known, as well as some smaller ones. He revealed not a hint of who they might be or what they will serve — saving that for later.
Farstad offered a presentation that included photos of the extensive audio-wireless network going into the building. CenturyLink has the Wi-Fi contract and has moved much of the structure into the building.
The facility will have 48 different wiring closets. Farstad said more than 180 Wi-Fi points have been installed. Connectivity has been a driving concern for the Vikings who want fans to have flawless access to their devices throughout games.
Currently, the highest demand for Wi-Fi at stadium events comes not from football games, but Taylor Swift concerts, he said, adding that her fans use up to 4 gigabytes during a show.
Sound was another concern for commissioners, especially for Bill McCarthy who recalled the Metrodome’s acoustic failings for concerts.
The new building will have several hundred speakers, including some in the bowl that weigh 8,000, 1,800 and 500 pounds, he said, noting that the JVL speakers are “heavy, expensive and solid.” Typically performers who use the stadium bring in their own equipment.
Chairwoman Michele Kelm-Helgen said she’s “spent a fair amount of time on acoustics” to make the venue appealing for audiences.
Kelm-Helgen announced that Alex Tittle, the agency’s equity director, would begin working on contract as he transitions to a similar job for the Super Bowl Host Committee
The committee issued a statement of its own, announcing Tittle as the vice president of business connect and corporate affairs as well as three other hires: Britt Carlson as senior director of partnerships, Adrienne Jordan as director of special projects and Jacob Miller as vice president of operations. Their salaries are not public.