More than 125 out-of-state workers brought in for Thursday’s big opening night at U.S. Bank Stadium won’t become permanent fixtures.
Leonard Bonacci, regional vice president for SMG, which manages the new downtown Minneapolis stadium, said no front-line workers were brought in to supplement the workforce. But managers were, to help “speed up the learning curve” for the 3,500 workers covering stadium security, concessions and hospitality.
Monterrey Security brought in about 75 experienced managers, SMG brought in 20 and concessionaire Aramark used 35.
Bonacci, who oversees six other NFL stadiums, said key managers from the Superdome in New Orleans and Soldier Field in Chicago watched over everything from security screening to trash operations and crowd management.
“It’s one thing when you put the plumbing in your house; it’s another when the water starts to run through it,” he said, explaining why recently hired staff got some help as 64,401 fans arrived in a brand-new building.
For example, Bonacci said, the imported managers quickly saw that the hottest selfie spot at the stadium was just inside its western gate, which offers an unimpeded lengthwise view of the field. Two out of every three fans entered through that gate, and after stepping into the 270-foot-high building, many fans stopped to pose for selfies, making the spot a hot zone of congestion.
Experienced managers saw the selfie tsunami starting and directed the hometown staff to encourage fans to move along, Bonacci said. They made similar observations throughout the building, and will again for the upcoming Luke Bryan and Metallica concerts.
Out-of-state managers will also be brought in for at least the first few Minnesota Vikings games. The NFL team will play its first game in the new stadium, a preseason match, on Aug. 28.
“I hate to compare it to learning to ride a bike,” Bonacci said, going on to say that debuting a stadium is just like that — you get a supportive hand until you can pedal on your own.
But when it comes to permanent staff, all stadium workers will be Minnesotans, said both Bonacci and a spokesman for Aramark. For Aramark, that’s 1,500 employees from in and around the Twin Cities, according to spokesman David Freireich.
A sensitive subject
Use of out-of-state labor is a touchy matter at publicly subsidized sports facilities. In the past couple of years, community critics were publicly angered by Target Field’s use of day laborers in concessions stands. Then early this season, Target Field concessionaire Delaware North bused in workers from its facilities in Green Bay, Milwaukee and Chicago.
The ensuing publicity helped Delaware North get the local staff needed to operate the building, said general manager Pete Spike. “No one wants to bring people in from the outside,” he said. “Economically, it’s better for the operation to have them here.”
After a couple of job fairs, Spike said he had enough workers to adequately staff games and events. Initially, he had 700, but needed 800 to 850. Staffing calculations must take into account game and event schedules, fan attendance, weather and personnel availability. Most workers at Target Field are supplementing other full-time work.
U.S. Bank’s operation is larger. SMG held a three-day job fair in April seeking 2,500 workers, including those in concessions. SMG promoted the jobs with the promise of a Skol Service rewards and recognition program. Like Target Field, most of the jobs at U.S. Bank Stadium are part-time, without benefits.
Shipping in outside workers would be contrary to the team atmosphere SMG cultivated at the job fair. Workers posed for a “draft day” photo with a purple Vikings jersey with the number 16 and “Gameday Team” on top where a player’s name usually appears.
Those who were hired had to commit to working all Vikings home games and 80 percent of other events at the stadium.
In both buildings, the managers compare stadium food operations to large bar and grill restaurants. By that comparison, U.S. Bank Stadium’s service was spotty. There were congested concourses and long lines in many spots. Some popular items sold out.
A high point for Bonacci was security. “We brought experts in and had them design that line,” he said of the routes and gates through which fans passed. The result was “aggressively good” waiting times, he said.