Populous roadmap to preserve U.S. Bank Stadium


US Bank Stadium needs major investment Image: U.S. Bank Stadium, Darb02, CC BY-SA 4.0

The U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, Minnesota (US), the home of the National Football League (NFL) team Minnesota Vikings, will require some $280 million in maintenance to remain in top condition over the next decade, including nearly $48 million next year, according to an architectural assessment released recently.

‘StarTribune’ quoted Michael Vekich, Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority (MSFA) Chair, as stating, “Is there sufficient money to cover these? The answer to that is ‘No’. That is the work that we have to do collectively with the [stadium operator] ASM Global, the Minnesota Vikings and … the Governor and the Legislature.”

The 66,860-capacity U.S. Bank Stadium is an enclosed stadium located in downtown Minneapolis, Minnesota (US). Built on the former site of the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome, the indoor stadium opened in 2016 and is the home of the Minnesota Vikings of the National Football League (NFL).

The Minnesota Vikings are a professional American football team based in Minneapolis (US). They compete in the National Football League (NFL) as a member club of the National Football Conference North division. Founded in 1960 as an expansion team, the team began play the following year. The U.S. Bank Stadium serves as their home arena.

Minneapolis (US)-based the Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority (MSFA) is the successor organization to the Metropolitan Sports Facilities Commission, and was established by the legislature in 2012. The MSFA was appointed to head the design, construction and operation of the U.S. Bank Stadium. The MSFA consists of five Board members and is chaired by Michael Vekich.

Los Angeles (US)-based ASM Global is the world’s leading venue management company and producer of live event experiences. With over 350+ premier venues spanning worldwide, it operates and invests in the world’s most important stadiums, arenas, convention centers, and theaters, including entertainment districts and mixed-use developments.

‘StarTribune’ further stated that the Vikings and the public make annual contributions to the stadium capital improvement fund, which sits at just over $16 million. The audio-visual room – one of the areas that will need work soon – is alone expected to cost $14 million, the report said.

Kansas City-based Populous, an architectural firm specializing in stadiums and arenas, conducted the facility assessment on behalf of the MSFA, which oversees the seven-year-old building on behalf of the Minnesota taxpayers. The MSFA paid $527,500 for the assessment.

Beginning in late December last year, Populous surveyed the building and found it to be in “very good shape” overall, according to Senior Principal Architect Brady Spencer, who specializes in football stadiums and made the presentation in the MSFA meeting.

The assessment included estimates for maintenance, including an anticipated four percent annual escalation.

Stated Spencer, “Really, the important thing about this is protecting your investment in the stadium.”

Populous inspected the entire building, taking photographs to document the condition of everything from the concourses and structural steel to the zinc panels on the exterior. It also looked at all mechanical, electrical, plumbing, and the audio-visual systems.

Each area was categorized as good, fair or worn. Good condition meant no signs of use and well-maintained. Fair condition meant some signs of wear and possibly needing work soon. Worn condition was defined as needing replacement.

Much of the stadium was determined to be in good shape. Areas said to be in fair condition include the service corridor in the main concourse, some directional signage, floor tile and grout in some restrooms, chipping on outdoor walkways, and a bent hand railing.

Areas said to be in poor condition include weather stripping on doors – which Spencer called typical for stadiums – a damaged concession display on the upper concourse and the in-house stadium TV distribution system which is “nearing the end of its life”, he said.

Spencer called the analysis a “roadmap to protect and preserve the U.S. Bank Stadium”.

He praised the MSFA for doing the assessment so early in the stadium’s life, saying Populous usually is brought in at 15 years when much work is needed.

He added, “It’s hard to catch up,” he said.

The MSFA member Bill McCarthy asked about the condition of the stadium’s clear plastic roof and the black zinc panels that wrap it. All the panels had to be replaced after the building opened due to moisture problems.

Spencer said the roof and panels were in “very good condition”, and the only issue was damage to one zinc panel near a doorway.

Before Spencer gave his 45-minute presentation, Vekich read a statement about the need to preserve the building so that it “remains a premier venue for Minnesotans”.

He also credited “early and ongoing maintenance”, noting the $18 million invested in the stadium since it opened.

The $1.1 billion stadium opened in 2016 and was at the time the largest public-private project in Minnesota history. The State taxpayers put in $348 million, the City of Minneapolis covered $150 million and the Wilf family, which owns the Vikings, paid the rest.

The public contribution to the building remains controversial largely because of opposition to the use of tax subsidies for billionaire owners and millionaire athletes. The need for additional public money will likely be a tough sell at the Legislature in coming years.

In his proposed budget for 2023, the Governor of Minnesota Tim Walz included $15.7 million to cover the first phase of the secure perimeter around the building.

Vekich expects the MSFA to go to the Legislature next year with a bigger request: $48 million for the perimeter’s second phase.

The Legislature also is discussing Walz’s proposal to pay off $377 million in outstanding bond debt on the building, using the surprisingly robust balance in the stadium reserve fund – $368 million.

That money comes from taxes on pulltabs (gambling ticket), including electronic pulltabs legalized in 2012 to help with the stadium’s debt.

At the MSFA meeting, the Vikings Executive Vice-President Lester Bagley called the study crucial – “These are improvements that are similar to those required on other world-class venues. This study will provide information and data that will help inform broader discussions and determine next steps regarding the future of U.S. Bank Stadium.”

In the public comment portion of the MSFA meeting, Constance Pepin was one of two people who spoke on behalf of environmentalists who want the stadium’s glass to be treated to spare birds from often fatal collisions.

She called it a “glaring omission” that there was no mention of the glass treatment in the Populous assessment. Without more action, she said, the three-year-old $300,000 academic study on bird mortality funded by the MSFA and the Vikings would be in vain.

Pepin said the cost to treat the glass would be “pocket change” compared to the other maintenance – “This capital improvement to fix the glass should be included in the same category to be done sooner rather than later,” she said.

Kansas City, Missouri (US)-based Populous, legally Populous Holdings, Inc., is a global architectural and design practice specializing in sports facilities, arenas and convention centers, as well as the planning and design of major special events.

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