U.S. Bank Stadium officials are trying to figure out how many of the workers who sell nachos, clean floors and protect the building are struggling financially and worried about going homeless during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The results of a $24,000 study are expected to go to the Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority (MSFA) by early next year, authority members learned at their regular monthly meeting, held remotely Thursday.
MSFA Chairman Michael Vekich said the first step in helping workers is understanding the extent of the problem. “It’s a very difficult question and the solution is not easy,” he said.
The Vikings have played a handful of games this season at the stadium, which can accommodate 67,200 fans. But the team has been allowed no more than 250 friends and family members in the stands.
Under new limits announced Wednesday by Gov. Tim Walz, only essential game day staffers will be allowed for the three remaining regular season games.
But the problem goes well beyond Vikings games. The stadium has been largely shuttered since the COVID outbreak in March, lessening the need for security and staff to control crowds and sell food. College and high school games and dozens of gatherings that require catering have been canceled, along with giant concerts and an NCAA wrestling tournament.
Catherine Collins of Ideas with Moxie, the local consultants hired to lead the study, gave a brief presentation Thursday that included interviews with former stadium employees. She described Moxie’s work as a “double-diamond design” of “discover, define, develop and deliver” to determine how U.S. Bank Stadium might support struggling past and present employees.
Collins said a group called Envision Community, which has members who have experienced homelessness and is affiliated with Hennepin Healthcare, has been part of the discussions. It’s been working on a two-year affordable housing cooperative for low-income residents.
The study, funded by the MSFA, didn’t need board approval. But board member Barbara Butts Williams praised the effort as the “work we should do.”
MSFA Executive Director James Farstad, who enlisted Collins to start the effort, said the study will help stadium operators connect directly with furloughed employees and create a framework to help them with housing, food and health care so “they know this place can be a solution in their lives.”
MSFA spokeswoman Lisa Niess said 3,000 employees are needed for an event with the full stadium in use, such as a Vikings game or a big concert. She said pay rates for part-time employees, the majority of whom are unionized, range from $13.25 an hour to $70 an hour for certain trades. She didn’t provide additional information about the breakdown of pay or numbers of jobs.
Other than Vikings games, there have been no events at the stadium since March 12. For NFL games this season, the game day workforce has been 300 to 450 workers, Niess said.
The MSFA oversees stadium operations on behalf of Minnesota taxpayers and contracts with Aramark for concessions.
ASM Global, a venue and event management company, manages the building and oversees the security contracts with WESS Event Services and G4S Secure Solutions USA.
The $1.1. billion stadium opened in 2016 and was built with a combination of private and public money.