The Minnesota Vikings upped their stadium contribution Friday by $518,000, adding an eighth elevator, two concession stands and nothing for the birds.
Boisterous birders dismayed by the team's decision not to include bird-safe glass overshadowed the announcement at a regularly scheduled meeting of the Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority. Some carried signs in Vikings' purple and gold that read "Never too late to do the right thing." The protesters want the team and/or the authority to spend an estimated $1 million extra for fritted glass, which would help birds shift course and avoid untimely deaths by colliding with the stadium's soaring glass exterior as they migrate along the nearby Mississippi River corridor.
Two bird advocates spoke during an open forum at the end of the meeting. Another stopped Chair Michele Kelm-Helgen as she tried to leave the room after the meeting.
The meeting otherwise went smoothly and quickly as Ted Mondale, the authority's executive director, announced the increase in the team's portion of the $1 billion project.
The Vikings' tab started at $477 million and has inched up to just shy of $527 million in the months since construction began. The remainder of the $1 billion cost is covered with $150 million from Minneapolis and $348 million from the state.
Other new enhancements paid for by the Vikings: two mobile concession stands and redesigns of a skyway and the press box. The Vikings and the facilities authority will split the $44,818 cost of the press area redesign, using money from its contingency fund.
At the public comment portion of the meeting, Lisa Venable of Minnetonka read a statement that included a mention of her favorite bird — the warbler — and a plea for compassion. She held up a mock newspaper headline that read "Minneapolis Kills Birds in Crystal Stadium" and said, "This is not who we are. This is not Minnesota."
She told members that the authority was created to represent the public. "This is not just the Vikings stadium, this is our stadium," Venable said.
She repeatedly pledged to keep up the pressure for bird-safe glass, claiming to have 75,000 signatures on a petition and to be starting a "movement" called Minnesota Citizens for the Protection of Migratory Birds.
"We can't continue to ignore the environmental impacts from our choices," Venable said. "We can't keep destroying nature. We need to start collaborating with it, versus building more structures that get in its way."
The authority has met in the past with the Audubon Society and agreed to turn off the lights on the building when possible during the migratory season.
The protesters peppered Kelm-Helgen with comments and questions after the meeting as she tried to answer media questions. She spoke briefly with one activist, encouraging him to make an appointment to speak with her for a broader discussion.
The authority and the Vikings have previously said the glass already has been ordered and most of it isn't fritted, especially on the vertical walls.
Kelm-Helgen said, however, that 60 percent of the roof of the building will be the bird-safe fritted glass. She noted that the structure won't even be the tallest glass building downtown. She repeated what she has said in the past: that the building's design was nearly complete when the Audubon Society raised glass concerns.
The signature design principle of the new covered facility was to provide an open, transparent feel with lots of natural light and air, she said.
In other action, the authority and the Vikings agreed to enter negotiations with Fund Raisers Ltd. to set up a "fan recognition program" for the new Minnesota Multi-Purpose Stadium. The idea is to allow fans to purchase engraved pavers to be placed in the stadium.
The facility is now 20 percent complete and on track to open for the 2016 NFL season.