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MSFA to buy more land for Vikings stadium

Ted Mondale, the MSFA’s CEO and executive director, left, and MSFA chair Michele Kelm-Helgen discuss the $1.06 billion Vikings stadium project at Friday’s MSFA board meeting. Board members suggested that Kelm-Helgen’s and Mondale’s roles are too similar and that there may be a pay equity issue in their salaries. (Staff photo: Bill Klotz)

Ted Mondale, the MSFA’s CEO and executive director, left, and MSFA chair Michele Kelm-Helgen discuss the $1.06 billion Vikings stadium project at Friday’s MSFA board meeting. Board members suggested that Kelm-Helgen’s and Mondale’s roles are too similar and that there may be a pay equity issue in their salaries. (Staff photo: Bill Klotz)

The new stadium for the Vikings needs more room for a security perimeter, so the Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority will buy portions of two downtown streets.

Meanwhile, the football team’s ownership has added another $19.5 million to the stadium construction budget, and the massive project is officially at its halfway point, with $400 million of work completed to date.

But news of the project milestone was overshadowed at Friday’s MSFA board meeting by other issues including questions about pay equity on the authority’s board, board governance and the contingency fund.

The additional team-funded enhancements include items such as plaza upgrades and new food-service equipment. The changes bring the project’s total cost to $1.06 billion, though the public funding remains at $498 million.

From a real estate standpoint, the board approved a deal with the city of Minneapolis to acquire portions of Fourth and Fifth streets in the project area to assemble additional land needed for the stadium.

Steve Maki, the MSFA’s senior stadium director, said the need stems from “a number of NFL security requirements in terms of siting the actual building on the site, so the city has agreed to vacate certain property.”

In an email, MSFA spokeswoman Jennifer Hathaway explained that the National Football League requires a 100-foot security perimeter around the stadium.

“To get that 100 feet from the skin of the building, we have to take out Fifth Street,” she added.

The city will retain easements on the southwest corner of the stadium site for a bicycle trail, as well as a temporary transportation easement, access for sanitary sewer maintenance, and a sanitary sewer easement, according to MSFA documents.

The MSFA will pay $1.573 million to the city for the land, which includes a small sliver of Fourth Street and a stretch of Fifth Street extending form Chicago Avenue to 11th Avenue.

The transaction is expected to close April 27.

In addition, the board approved a $1.358 million change order in the construction budget to allow Golden Valley-based Mortenson Construction, the project’s construction manager, to perform work related to modifications on Fifth and Sixth streets.

Here’s a rundown of Friday’s discussion.

Overlapping duties and pay equity

MSFA board members John Griffith and Duane Benson raised questions about the role played by MSFA board chair Michele Kelm-Helgen, suggesting it was too similar to the work performed by Ted Mondale, the MSFA’s CEO and executive director.

Benson said it’s a “terribly inefficient” way to oversee the project. “I don’t see another model out there like this,” he said.

The precursor to the MSFA, the Metropolitan Sports Facilities Commission, was overseen by a part-time board chair.

Gov. Mark Dayton appointed Kelm-Helgen to chair the board, consistent with a process set forth by the stadium legislation. At the time, she was a deputy chief of staff for the governor. Mondale was hired by the board to be the MSFA’s CEO/executive director.

Both play key roles in overseeing the project.

What prompted the discussion was consideration of a “pay equity report,” which is required by state law to ensure that males and females in public employment are treated as equals when it comes to pay.

Kelm-Helgen’s annual salary is $127,000; Mondale’s is $162,245.

Kelm-Helgen said at the board meeting that she wasn’t asking for a raise.

After the meeting, Kelm-Helgen defended her work on the project, noting that the project is “on budget, it’s on schedule, and we have met all our major goals on the project.”

Kelm-Helgen added that she and Mondale are doing “the same level of work,” but that Mondale’s role involves more day-to-day oversight of construction and she is more involved with overall budget and other issues.

Bill introduced for bird-safe glass

A group of bird advocates said they are looking to the state Legislature for help in trying to get bird-safe glass on the new stadium.

“Because this non-elected board, overseeing a half-billion dollars of our taxpayer money, will not commit to a solution to protect birds, we are now asking our representatives at the Minnesota Legislature to listen to the will of the people and pass a bill that will require action on this matter,” said Lisa Venable, a member of the Minnesota Citizens for the Protection of Migratory Birds.

The group, which has long said that the stadium will be a death trap for migratory birds, referred to a bill, introduced by state Rep. Carolyn Laine, DFL-Columbia Heights.

The bill says exterior stadium glass must be made “bird-safe either by etching the glass or applying a topical film to the glass, preferably done during construction or, if necessary, by retrofitting after construction is completed.”

Though the MSFA has ruled out the use of bird-safe fritted glass at this point, Kelm-Helgen said the project team is still working with Maplewood-based 3M on a bird-safe window film.

Kelm-Helgen said the board expects to have something to announce by July.

“You can’t really push them too hard. … They need to have their testing and protocols done,” she said after the meeting. “Our building is not completed, and you can’t put film on glass when it’s on a construction site. The test would not be valid if you did something like that.”

Kelm-Helgen said some of the stadium’s glass panels have been installed on the east side of the building, visible from 11th Avenue.

Contingency budget concerns

Benson and board member John Griffith expressed fears that the stadium’s contingency budget might not be adequate.

Mondale said the project started with a $30 million contingency and the plan is to have $10 million remaining by the start of 2016 to cover any unforeseen expenses, but Benson said that might be “cutting it pretty close.”

Griffith said the project could “easily burn through about $10 million of stuff that we just don’t know is out there.”

Mondale said he’s confident the $10 million will be enough, based on recommendations from the project’s owners representative, Hammes Co.

Kelm-Helgen emphasized that no more public money will go into the stadium. Worst case scenario, if the contingency fell short, the project team would have to make some cuts or ask the Vikings for more money, she said.

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