It looks a long way away. But opening day for the new Vikings stadium is approaching fast: the construction contract for the facility sets a deadline for the project to be ready for football for the 2016 preseason.

“It’s amazing when you look at the site, you can see how much construction has already happened,” says Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority chair Michele Kelm-Helgen. “You actually can see the concourse you’re going to walk in on when you’re back on 11th Avenue. You can kind of picture yourself already standing in the stadium. And two years from now, we’ll be opening the doors, July 15, 2016.”

That leaves about 731 days left to get the work done. Right now, there are about 400 people a day showing up at the site to work on the project. Kelm-Helgen says there are about 200 Minnesota companies already with contracts for the projects. There will be three more big chunks of the project to be put out for bid in the next coming months — which will officially put the entire project under contract.

“The big thing this coming year will be that roof structure that’s going up. We’re going to have that huge steel truss that spans from one side of the stadium to the other,” Kelm-Helgen says. “At its peak, it will stand about 300 feet in the air. They’re building it from both sides and it will meet in the middle and it’ll take about a year to get the whole thing done.”

Interior view of Red Zone lounge seats (Vikings image)

Despite the outrage from Gov. Mark Dayton two years ago, fans are ponying up for those pricey seat licenses in the new Vikings stadium.

The team said today it was already almost 1/3 ahead of its budget for sales for all of 2014, after just four months.

Vikings director of communications Jeff Anderson says they’ve sold $51 million in licenses. They’d hoped to sell $37 million by the end of December.

“We’re early in the process,” Anderson said in an interview. “But we’re strongly encouraged with the early positive returns and the overall sales process we’ve established, getting a lot of positive feedback from fans. We’ve completed 3,400 appointments in the preview center in the first four months.”

That belies some of the doubts about the seat licenses. The average NFL team sells more than $200 million worth of the licenses in new stadiums, and the Vikings were contemplating a $151 million plan before Dayton took them to task for dunning fans for both tickets and licenses. The so-called “stadium builder licenses” are one-time fees that give fans the rights to season tickets, essentially “owning” the seat, although they still have to pay for game tickets.

All told, Anderson said, they’ve sold about 13,400 of the 65,000 seats in the new stadium, currently under construction in downtown Minneapolis. They’re only about a quarter of the way through offering new seats in the 16 “zones” of current seat holders.

Anderson also said there’s now a waiting list of several thousand fans who don’t have season tickets now, but still want to get seats in the new stadium.

The new stadium is scheduled to open in July 2016.