Plans for a large Minnesota Vikings amenity on the new stadium’s plaza are adding another wrinkle to concerns the $1.1 billion stadium will become a death trap for migratory birds.
At Friday’s meeting of the Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority, wildlife advocates expressed fears that the landscaping around the planned “Legacy Ship“ would attract birds to the site, where they would be at risk of crashing into the stadium’s exterior glass.
Michele Kelm-Helgen, chair of the MSFA, said at the meeting that the landscaping plans haven’t been finalized yet and that the project team would take into consideration the bird advocates’ concerns.
Also at Friday’s meeting, the authority approved nearly $2.63 million in budget amendments, bringin
g the total project cost to $1.088 billion, and Mortenson Construction said the project is now 80 percent complete. Roughly half the $2.628 million is being paid for by the team, with the rest coming from the owner’s contingency fund.
The amendments cover several items, including structural support around a new video board on the west prow, additional duct and ceiling work, additional lighting systems for interior bowl signage and locker room revisions.
But a big focus was on plans to jazz up the stadium plaza with a team-funded “Legacy Ship,” which will consist of a 2,000-square-foot, 55-foot tall LED video board, as well as seating, displays and other attractions.
Vikings spokesman Jeff Anderson said in an email that the final cost of the ship “is to be determined as we have yet to select fabricators and installers.” The designer is RipBang Studios, a division of Minneapolis-based design firm Nelson.
The ship will sit on the southwest side of the west plaza in an area that won’t block the views through the stadium’s glass operable doors, said Tanya Dreesen, vice president of partnerships activation and special projects for the Vikings.
At the meeting, Dreesen presented architectural renderings and a fly-through video, which showed trees and other landscaping around the ship.
“We chose to do something special, something distinctive,” Dreesen said.
But the trees were a red flag for Ann Laughlin and others from the Minnesota Citizens for the Protection of Migratory Birds, which has long urged the MSFA to use bird-safe glass on the stadium’s exterior.
The American Bird Conservancy and other experts recommend an “extensive buffer” between the glass and trees to protect birds, she said.
“Our concern is that … you are surrounding the ship with a lot of trees and this is going to create an increased danger to migratory birds,” which will be “attracted to the trees and probably fly into the glass,” Laughlin said.
Kelm-Helgen said the video presented at the meeting isn’t the final design.
She added that the project team needs to balance the bird safety concerns with the desires of the city of Minneapolis, which has certain requirements for trees and wants to minimize the amount of “hardscapes” at the site.
“We are going to come out with a plaza design that we will bring back and share with the group, but we are definitely listening and trying to respond to your concerns about those trees in front of the glass,” Kelm-Helgen said.
Also at Friday’s meeting:
–Mortenson Construction senior project manager Brendan Moore said the project hit some milestones in November, including completion of the building’s ETFE roofing system. The building is now fully enclosed and ready for winter.
More than $700 million worth of work has been completed. About 1,300 workers are on site on a daily basis, but that number will slowly decline starting in the first quarter of next year, he said.
Much of the site work has been completed on the eastern side. Exterior metal panel installation on the south elevation is complete, and glass installation continues on the north and south upper perimeter ring, among other construction activity.
On the inside, concession stands, restrooms, clubs, suites and other components are taking shape and some finishing work is underway. The precast stadia erection in the lower bowl will be finished by mid-December, he said.
“If you walk through the building, you will see some areas have a much more finished feel to them than they have in the past,” Moore said.
Mortenson has also started working with stadium architect HKS of Dallas and the ownership group on the “punch list” process to ensure the spaces will be ready to turn over next summer, Moore said.
- The owner’s contingency fund is still in good shape, Kelm-Helgen said after the meeting.
“I think we are at about $29 million as of today, so we feel comfortable that that will help us close out the project and take care of whatever we might have to do,” she said.
- The MSFA continues to talk with Maplewood-based 3M and the Minnesota Audubon Society about a film product that could be used on the Vikings stadium glass to deter birds from flying into it. There may be more to announce early next year, Kelm-Helgen said, adding the product could be applied to the building after construction is completed.
- The MSFA and Mortenson Construction are still engaged in the mediation process over $15 million in unresolved change orders on the project, she said. Mediation began earlier this month.
The change orders stem from cost escalations since the final stadium design was completed. Mortenson and the MSFA are at odds over who should be responsible for the extra costs.
The MSFA and Mortenson want to “take the time it needs to ensure the best results” for the public and all parties involved, Kelm-Helgen said.