The Vikings have struck a business deal with the State of Minnesota to host a Major League Soccer franchise in the team’s new stadium.

The Vikings don’t have a soccer team yet. But Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority chairwoman Michele Kelm-Helgen said a rent agreement would help signal pro soccer that Minneapolis is ready.

Lester Bagley, Viking vice president, said the team might make a formal bid for a franchise later this year.

“Las Vegas is competing. Sacramento is competing. Minneapolis is competing. So there’s competition that they have to sort out. I can’t speak for the league in terms of what they want to do, but we think we’re interested in bringing a viable proposal forward, and we’ll see where it goes,” Bagley said.

The Vikings were part of the promotional effort for the Guinness Cup exhibition game put on at TCF Bank Stadium this summer.

Bagley said the game sold 34,000 tickets and helped the team map out soccer’s fan base in Minnesota. He said the team may also look at bringing that exhibition match back to Minneapolis.

The Vikings are one of two potential candidates for a Major League Soccer franchise. The owner of the existing minor league team in Minnesota, former UnitedHealth CEO Bill McGuire, is also reportedly weighing options for an MLS team.

The Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority (MSFA) Board approved a 10-year contract on Friday with Pennsylvania-based SMG to manage the new Vikings stadium.

SMG currently manages four other NFL stadiums, including Soldier Field in Chicago, the Superdome in New Orleans, NRG Stadium in Houston and Everbank Field in Florida. Under the contract, the company will also head up marketing for the stadium.

In a statement, MSFA Chair Michele Kelm-Helgen said the company has a proven track record that will help the new stadium succeed.

“SMG facilities have hosted 9 Super Bowls over the years,” Kelm-Helgen said. “Their experience will be a fantastic asset as we prepare for Super Bowl LII in 2018, and other large-scale events that we are competing to host.”

SMG has committed to continue working with the Minnesota State High School League, schools and other community events that used to host events at the Metrodome.

The new $1 billion Vikings stadium is under construction in downtown Minneapolis and is expected to be ready for the 2016 football season.

 

John Wood, with Mortenson Construction, MSFA chair Michele Kelm-Helgen and Vikings vice president Lester Bagley talk about the team’s additional pledge of nearly $20 million to the new NFL stadium under construction in downtown Minneapolis. Tim Nelson/MPR News
  1. Listen Vikings add $19.7 million to stadium contribution

The Vikings said they’re adding nearly $20 million to their contribution to the cost of building a new stadium for the team in downtown Minneapolis.

The team made the announcement this morning at the Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority meeting in Minneapolis. It means the team has committed nearly $50 million more to the original $477 required from the team by the Minnesota Legislature and Gov. Mark Dayton. The Vikings will now be contributing a total of about $526 million to the total project cost, which tops $1 billion. The state and the city of Minneapolis are contributing $498 million to the project. That means the Vikings will be paying more than 51 percent of the construction costs.

“It is critical that the original stadium design unveiled in 2013 is delivered to the public when the new stadium opens in 2016. Our goal is to provide the best game day experience possible for our fans and for everyone in Minnesota who uses the stadium. We strongly believed eliminating significant items that contribute to that fan experience was not an option,” said team owner and president Mark Wilf.

The team has been inching up its contributions to add amenities to the new stadium, including a larger scoreboard display than originally planned.

John Wood, senior vice president for Mortenson Construction, said there were a number of factors that have gone into the additional cost. He said the steel for the building’s exterior shell has been rising in price, in part because of an improving construction climate and more demand for steel than when the project started.

“We budgeted that steel at about $4,800 a ton,” Wood said. “And there’s about 7,000 tons of steel in that particular element of the building. Those bids came in about $6,000 a ton.”

Builders say the increased cost put pressure on other components of the new stadium’s design which the Vikings wanted. They include things like an air curtain to keep the stadium at a comfortable temperature, even when the massive doors on the west end of the stadium are opened. They’re also upgrading the equipment that will open and close the 10-story-high pivoting glass doors.

But the upgrades will NOT include what conservationists are calling “bird-safe” glass, a textured glazing that is believed to prevent birds from flying into the sides of buildings and being killed.

Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority Chair Michele Kelm-Helgen says the textured, or fritted, glass has drawbacks.

“The fritted glass has always been an issue not only related to cost, but also related to the design of the building, Kelm-Helgen said.  “The fritted glass gives you a murky view as you look in, as you look out. And we have decided from a design standpoint, its really important that we keep the characteristics of the building.”

The Audubon Society’s Minnesota chapter appealed to the Vikings to make the building safer for birds. Executive director Matthew Anderson said he wished the team would have chipped in just a little more.

“The $1 million is less than 1/10 of one percent of the cost of the project,” he said. “And I don’t know how hard it would have been to go from $20 million to $21 million, but it would have made a huge difference and it would have put the stadium on the map for all the right reasons.”

Anderson said his organization will appeal to Gov. Mark Dayton next week.