by Howard Lestrud
ECM Political Editor
With groundbreaking in October for the new Minnesota Vikings stadium, Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority Chair Michele Kelm-Helgen assures Minnesota residents they will have a multi-purpose stadium with a roof.
Kelm-Helgen recently visited with the ECM Editorial Board and discussed a myriad of topics, including the schedule for construction and the concern about lack of charitable gambling revenues to help pay for retirement of debt service. The funds, in the end, come from a pool of general fund monies.
A bond sale is scheduled for late summer or early fall. Minnesota Management & Budget Commissioner Jim Schowalter says a cash management decision has yet to be made in determining the size of the bond sale. He said the bonds could be broken into pieces, or all sold up front.
The Minnesota Legislature is tackling some of the funding problems and is hopeful that electronic pull tabs will fare better in the coming months than they have so far. Linked bingo is another electronic revenue source. Legislators have been talking about a memorabilia sales tax and a racino to help provide more revenues for the stadium.
Kelm-Helgen said electronic pull tab revenue has been slower than anticipated. “The game changer will be electronic linked bingo,” she said. It is possible that prizes of up to $100,000 a game could be realized in this type of gaming.
Financing of the stadium may be reliant on three backup sources of revenue. They include the NFL Lottery game, which will generate about $3 million a year. Largest source of revenue could be a memorabilia tax, generating a projected $8 million annually in the Senate bill and a projected $9 million in the House bill. A third source is the luxury suite tax. It is projected that the luxury suite tax would produce $2-3 million a year. The Vikings opposed the latter two options.
Kelm-Helgen points out that the memorabilia tax was part of the original legislation in both the House and Senate omnibus tax bills. She called the memorabilia tax a “leveling source” of revenue.
It is still too early to rush to judgment on the electronic gambling, Kelm-Helgen said. “Manufacturers are putting a ton of money into marketing of these (e-pull tabs),” Kelm-Helgen added.
Schematic drawings of the new Vikings stadium and surrounding area will be unveiled to the public the first part of May, Kelm-Helgen announced. This large media event will draw representatives from the city of Minneapolis, the state, businesses and neighborhoods.
The Vikings will play one more season in the Metrodome. When this season is finished, demolition will begin. Kelm-Helgen said the stadium, built in 1982, will be taken down in pieces, not by implosion. The Metrodome is currently being used as a site for 300 high school and college baseball games.
Completion of the stadium is set for July of 2016. It will be used for at least 10 Vikings games each year and it will also be the home for high school and college baseball and football teams. Other events include concerts, the Hmong New Year’s celebration, motor cross and the monster truck jam.
The Sports Authority will be the operator of the stadium. “We’re like a big state park” with all the amenities, Kelm-Helgen said. Total stadium project costs are estimated at $975 million.
Naming rights will fetch the Vikings substantial monies on their side of the revenue. The Vikings will be paying $8.5 million in rent and $1.5 million in capital costs. All incremental costs for football will include security, heating and cooling. The total of rental and other costs could reach $15 million to the Vikings. All other groups will be paying about $2 million in rent, Kelm-Helgen said.
Kelm-Helgen said the new Vikings stadium will produce huge economic growth for the area. The stadium will be connected with walking paths and trails to invite people into the area. The stadium will feature more windows and lighting, a different feel will pull people to the stadium, Kelm-Helgen said.
The roof likely will not be retractable, costs for such a roof being nearly $50 million. A glass-like wall could be built to allow spectators to view the downtown skyline.
Light rail, including the Hiawatha and Central Corridor lines, will also be considered strong parts of the infrastructure.
Mortenson Construction of Minneapolis won the contract for construction. The company has built more than 100 sports facilities throughout the country, Kelm-Helgen said.
The stadium project will reportedly account for 4 million work hours and 7,500 jobs. The agreement with Mortenson calls for 32 percent of the work force to be minority and 6 percent to be women. Businesses supplying services and materials for stadium construction must be 11 percent women-owned and 10 percent minority business. All of these businesses must also be Minnesota businesses, Kelm-Helgen said.
The Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority (MSFA) was established by the Minnesota Legislature in 2012 and charged with the design, construction and operation of the new multi-purpose stadium. The MSFA consists of five members with three of the five appointed by the governor. The governor also appoints the chair. Two authority members are appointed by the city of Minneapolis. Other members are John D. Griffith, Duane Benson, Bill McCarthy and Barbara Butts Williams. Kelm-Helgen was appointed chair by Gov. Mark Dayton, who appointed Griffith and Benson. Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak appointed McCarthy and Butts Williams.
Kelm-Helgen has led a very active political career. She previously served as deputy chief of staff for legislative affairs in Dayton’s office from , 2010 to 2012. She was also chief of staff, Minnesota State Senate, 2006 to 2010. She previously worked for Minneapolis Mayor Al Hofstede and for former Gov. Wendell Anderson. Kelm-Helgen served as a director of Control Data Corporation (now Ceridian), from 1979 to 1992.
Howard Lestrud can be reached at [email protected]