Both state-paid executives on the panel overseeing U.S. Bank Stadium construction will keep their jobs when the building opens, with one focusing on marketing and the other on operations.
Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority (MSFA) Chairwoman Michele Kelm-Helgen, who was appointed by Gov. Mark Dayton, and Executive Director Ted Mondale said earlier this week that they are both needed full time to monitor the operations of the new $1.1 billion building.
The MSFA, which in addition to Kelm-Helgen is made up of four other political appointees, approved them staying on at Friday's regular monthly meeting. Kelm-Helgen is positioned as a marketing czar and Mondale as an operations manager. Their jobs, for which they are respectively paid $130,175 and $165,333, supplement the work of various consultants and, most significantly, SMG, the sports-entertainment giant hired by the MSFA to promote and operate the building.
The dual roles of Kelm-Helgen and Mondale have been a point of contention because of concerns about overlapping duties, distribution of power and her lower salary. The roles are a shift from the Metrodome, where oversight involved one full-time executive director and a part-time chair who earned less than half the salary. Target Field has one executive director who earns $164,317 and an unpaid committee chair.
The building's ribbon cutting happens next Friday. A public open house will be held July 23-24 on the largest public-private project in state history.
MSFA panel member John Griffith, who voiced concerns about job overlap a year ago, said the new division of tasks makes more sense. "This revised structure essentially eliminates duplication and allows direct accountability of the CEO to the board," Griffith said in a written statement in advance of the meeting.
Both Mondale and Kelm-Helgen have strong ties to Dayton. Mondale was the governor's lead negotiator on the stadium until the law passed in 2012 and he was hired to work with the MSFA. Kelm-Helgen was an aide to the governor when he tapped her in June 2012 to lead the board. Dayton, Mondale and Kelm-Helgen's political roots are entwined with the DFL Party through their fathers.
Asked about the proposed division of the MSFA duties, Dayton's only comment was that Kelm-Helgen and Mondale deserve thanks for their completing the project on budget and on time.
Kelm-Helgen compared the authority's structure to that of the Metropolitan Council, the seven-county regional policy and planning body with some 4,000 employees that has a chairman who is paid $144,996 and a regional administrator with a $165,318 salary.
A written MSFA statement said the staff has "financial oversight requirements from the legislative auditor, equity requirements for operations, procurement and bid requirements, which require direction from the Authority to ensure they are fulfilled. Unlike any other Minnesota sports venue, U.S. Bank Stadium also has a legislative mandate to offer the building to the community for events at affordable rates."
The MSFA has a staff of seven and operating revenue of $17 million in 2016. The staff tally doesn't include outside financial, legal and public-relations contracts. The budget includes $1.1 million for staff salaries and another $2 million for consulting services during construction.
Of the 170 hours shown on the breakdown of Kelm-Helgen's monthly duties, she spends 26 hours monthly each on public relations and marketing. The former entails developing a plan with the MSFA communications director, a $97,995 position, and managing public-relations consultants.
Her duties are described as "oversight and coordination" of SMG's marketing and advertising of the stadium as well as approval of all SMG bookings.
She spends the most time per month — 32 hours — on "government interface and compliance coordination," working with the governor's office, and city and state agencies. The tasks include monitoring compliance of agreements with the state as well as Hennepin County and Minneapolis.
She also takes responsibility for "distribution of event tickets" for the authority's two suites in the stadium.
Mondale's job entails 24 hours a month focused on management of the MSFA staff with another 12 hours overseeing consultants and lawyers.
He spends 28 hours a month as the liaison with SMG on daily concerns and another 26 hours handling daily issues and crises. He will monitor compliance with parking and serve as the liaison for high school and collegiate baseball games.