The state panel overseeing construction of the new $1.1 billion Vikings stadium is expected to endorse pay raises for staff members as high as 10 percent at its Friday meeting.
If the draft budget is adopted, Ted Mondale, Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority (MSFA) executive director, will get a salary increase of 1.9 percent to $165,333. Michele Kelm-Helgen, MSFA chairwoman, would receive a 2.5 percent increase to $130,275. The MSFA is a state agency funded with public dollars.
Mondale's proposed budget includes 10 percent pay hikes for the senior executive assistant, project coordinator for the board and finance assistant. If approved, the wages would take effect on Jan. 1.
The raises are subject to board approval but are expected to get it, Kelm-Helgen said.
In all, the draft budget lists $17.5 million in operating revenue, $6 million of which comes from the state, and $10.8 million in expenses.
In a separate action, the Vikings will be asking the MSFA at Friday's meeting for the authority to spend up to $50 million more of the team's money on the stadium if needed. It must get MSFA approval before contributing more money to the project.
Staffing needs evolving
U.S. Bank Stadium is to open next summer in time for the NFL season, and so the 2016 budget is a hybrid — it straddles the final months of stadium construction and the first few months when the Vikings will play there.
For example, the team will pay a prorated rent next year of $5.4 million; in future years, the rent will be $8.5 million annually.
Taxpayers are covering roughly half the cost of the stadium, which replaces the Metrodome on the same site on the eastern edge of downtown Minneapolis.
Staffing needs will continue to be a topic as the stadium moves toward completion.
At the Metrodome, which was razed in early 2014, the staff included a full-time executive director and a part-time chair with a substantially lower salary. At the MSFA, both Mondale and Kelm-Helgen are full-time employees, and some lawmakers and MSFA members have questioned the need for full-time executives.
MSFA staffers last had a salary increase, 3 percent, in June 2014; that was on the heels of a 2 percent increase awarded them at the end of 2013. The four appointed members of the MSFA Board receive nominal pay for their monthly meetings, and are not paid salaries.
Kelm-Helgen has said that staffing needs are greater while the stadium is being built, but not everyone has been satisfied with that answer. Former MSFA staff member Duane Benson questioned the need for both jobs, and ultimately resigned over the pushback he got from Kelm-Helgen.
Asked Thursday if both full-time positions will be necessary once the building is open, Kelm-Helgen said: "Ted and I are just beginning to look at the needs of the stadium and the operation of the building."
She repeatedly emphasized that the largest percentage increases for the staff reflected expanded responsibilities because of the departure of three full-time staff members in 2015. That reduced the number of staffers working full-time at the MSFA from 11 to 8, she said.
The finance assistant's pay next year will increase to $29.34 an hour, while the executive assistant's pay will go up to $34.68. The project manager position, which will be filled next year, will be paid in the range of $58,000 to $66,000.
Also on Friday's agenda
Vikings Vice President Lester Bagley said the team is seeking authority to spend up to $50 million in team-controlled areas, such as cable for broadcasting and distribution lines for soft drinks. If the board approves, the team's plan will still need approval from Mondale and Kelm-Helgen.
In other agenda items Friday, Kelm-Helgen will discuss a one-day trip most board members took to Houston's NRG Stadium on Tuesday for pointers on how to operate a multipurpose stadium.
The Houston staff said it was critically important to keep the facility updated with capital improvements, she said. Next year, she said, they will develop a long-range plan to fund such improvements; in the meantime, they have proposed keeping $6.7 million in 2016 reserves in an operating account rather than immediately transferring a portion to a capital reserve account.
The board on Friday anticipates renewing a lobbying contract with Minneapolis-based law firm Lockridge Grindal Nauen. The MSFA pays the firm $9,000 a month to monitor meetings and legislation at the State Capitol.
Although there has been no resolution yet, Kelm-Helgen also will tell the board that the MSFA remains in mediation talks with Mortenson over millions in cost disputes. And she is still waiting for bird-safe film to test on the building to prevent bird fatalities at the huge glassy structure.
"This film is something that will be applied after the building is completed," she said.