U.S. Bank Stadium managers have pushed back by more than a month their decision on who will install the blackout curtains for college basketball’s main event next year.
That shortens the amount of time the winning bidders will have to install the drapes. The deadline for completion is unchanged. That’s March 14, 2019. All has to be ready when the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) brings the Division 1 men’s basketball Final Four to town April 6-8.
“Putting in this darkening solution is complex,” Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority (MSFA) Chairman Mike Vekich said, adding that it’s “just good business practice to extend the deadline to allow for more proposals.
“We want to make sure we’ve had as competitive a process as possible.”
The proposals for blackout options were initially due by March 14 and the plan was to make that selection March 30. The drape-hanger is now scheduled to be chosen May 3.
The MSFA board, which almost always rubber-stamps proposals from staff without debate, would be asked to approve the spending at the regularly scheduled monthly meeting in May, or possibly June.
Neither Vekich nor acting MSFA executive director Jim Farstad would reveal the number of bids that have come in or the potential cost. Vekich has said the drapes won’t be cheap. He said Thursday he’s confident the MSFA has enough money to cover the cost.
The Final Four consists of three basketball games — two semifinals on Saturday evening and the championship game Monday night. Before the games, all four teams have practices and public shoot-arounds in the building. The NCAA requires the building’s light conditions to be uniform for all practices and games.
The league doesn’t want glare on the court — a challenge for a building with a translucent plastic roof, huge glass doors and soaring windows on the west and east ends of the building, as well as the walls along the concourses. In all, the 20-month-old building has 200,000 square feet of glass, according to the MSFA’s website.
U.S. Bank Stadium isn’t the only building that needed help to get on the dark side.
When the University of Phoenix played host to the Final Four in 2017, general manager Andy Gorchov said $50,000 worth curtains were purchased to cover the windows, which he called “a relatively simply solution.”
That building only has slots for windows, he said, not U.S. Bank Stadium’s massive panes of glass. “We also don’t have a translucent roof,” he said.
The Alamodome in San Antonio, Texas, opened in 1993, was already plenty dark for the most recent Final Four. No curtains were needed.
Vekich said the proposals for U.S. Bank Stadium include a number of creative plans to shield the court from the light. The expectation is that whatever is installed will be reusable for future events. Vekich mentioned that some concerts can use the darkening. Also, the stadium’s booker, SMG, is in negotiations with a “large religious group” to come to the building for an event. That group “would prefer a church” atmosphere, somber and dark rather than filled with sunlight, he said.
The MSFA, which is the taxpayer-funded oversight arm of the $1.1 billion building, was obligated to pay for these windows by previous staff. In 2014, former Chairwoman Michele Kelm-Helgen and executive director Ted Mondale sought the men’s Final Four. There has been little public discussion of the blackout curtains beyond a couple of brief mentions in the past several years.
Part of the proposal will involve establishing a schedule for the creation and installation of the curtains. Farstad pointed out that the installation must accommodate planned events in the stadium, including the 2018 Vikings season.
The Vikings, the main tenant of the building, are not involved in determining who will install the curtains, although they may end up paying for part of it because the team makes annual payments to the capital reserve fund for building improvements. The MSFA’s current budget for 2018 building improvements is projected to be $7.25 million. Vekich has said the “blackout solution” will come from that account.
The stadium was the largest public-private project in state history. The state owns the building and the MSFA oversees it. The Vikings covered $600 million of the more than $1.1 billion cost of the stadium.