Mondale to oversee Vikings stadium project

Published 5:00 pm Saturday, June 23, 2012

MINNEAPOLIS — Ted Mondale, a key aide who helped Gov. Mark Dayton pass a law for a new Vikings stadium, got a new job Friday overseeing construction of the $975 million arena as executive director of the Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority.

The authority hired Mondale and voted to pay him $157,000 a year at its first meeting. Earlier, Dayton swore in the authority’s five members and told them, “You’re on your own.”

Mondale, a former state senator and son of former Vice President Walter Mondale, said it will be at least a year until ground is broken. The new stadium will be built on the downtown Minneapolis site of the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome, the Vikings’ home since 1982. The goal is to open the new stadium in the fall of 2016.

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Mondale said the authority is on track to manage the construction project, although the stadium law allows the Vikings to request that responsibility if the team assumes the risk of cost overruns. Taxpayers otherwise would be on the hook, although Mondale said stadium backers got assurances from construction companies during the legislative process that their bids for the project would assume that risk.

“The public can bid this out in a way that the taxpayer will not get hurt,” Mondale said.

The push is to keep the project, in Dayton’s words, “on time and under budget.”

Vikings vice president Lester Bagley welcomed Mondale’s hiring and said the team looks forward to working together to build an “iconic” stadium.

“We need to open in the fall of 2016, and there’s an awful lot of work that needs to be done,” Bagley said.

One of the authority’s first big decisions will come next month with the hiring of an owner’s representative, a consultant with building expertise who will work out construction specifications and a timeline before an architect and design team come on board. The Metropolitan Sports Facilities Commission opened the bidding process for the owner’s representative in May, with proposals due on July 2 and a contract to be awarded at the authority’s July 13 meeting.

The authority also aims to hire a consultant to work on environmental reviews before construction begins, in a process that is expected to take at least a year and cost $750,000 to $1 million.

The group set Michele Kelm-Helgen’s annual salary at $100,000 as the authority’s full-time chairwoman, after Dayton appointed her last week. She left her job as the governor’s deputy chief of staff. Authority member Bill McCarthy, president of the Minneapolis Regional Labor Federation, will serve as the vice chairman, and former state Sen. Duane Benson will be the secretary-treasurer.

U.S. Bank was designated as the authority’s bank, continuing a business relationship that started with the Metropolitan Sports Facilities Commission.

That commission is due to be dissolved by Aug. 15, as the new authority absorbs its employees and takes over management of the Metrodome.

Mondale was tapped by Dayton in early 2011 to lead the Metropolitan Sports Facilities Commission, a post that put him in the thick of the stadium deal as Dayton pushed for its passage. The bill cleared the Legislature in May, committing $498 million in state and city money. Mondale praised the law that came out of the process, saying it gave clear lines of decision-making that will expedite the construction project.

As for the Metrodome, named after the Minnesota Democrat who served as vice president, Mondale said the Vikings are working with the Humphrey family on a tribute.

Dayton said he sees construction of a new stadium as “a Minnesota legacy.”

“It’ll be something that Minnesotans can be proud of,” he said. “It’ll provide thousands of jobs for the next few years and be something that Minnesotans can point to and say, ‘Yeah, we do it better in Minnesota.”’