The head of the public panel overseeing construction of a new Minnesota Vikings stadium warned today that the schedule for the project could be in jeopardy.
Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority chairwoman Michele Kelm-Helgen said that the July 2016 completion date for the new $1 billion stadium might be delayed if Vikings officials don’t quickly resume negotiations on the lease and development agreements. The team broke off negotiations this week until the completion of a recently launched financial audit of owner Zygi Wilf is completed.
"Our schedule could slip," Kelm-Helgen said.
The authority hired a lawyer last week to review Wilf's finances, in response to a New Jersey court ruling against the Vikings owner on a decades old real estate dispute in that state. The review should be completed by the middle of next month.
Minnesota Vikings spokesman Lester Bagley insisted that construction and the team's financing plans remain on schedule. The team's share is $477 million. But Bagley said the due diligence inquiry makes it difficult to negotiate what he called "fundamental partnership agreements."
"We have to be at the table as partners," Bagley said. "So until this due diligence inquiry gets completed and they have the confidence in our organization and our ownership that we are partners that can go forward, then there's no point in having these discussions."
But a statement issued Friday afternoon from the MSFA's due diligence counsel Peter Carter said the Wilfs have not provided requested information:
"The Vikings have stated that they have provided the MSFA with detailed financial information in our due diligence review. We have received no such information. The MSFA, through our attorneys, have made multiple requests for more cooperation from the Wilfs. To date they have refused to provide us with any personal financial information that our advisors need to obtain comfort that the New Jersey court case result will not impact their ability to meet their financial obligations."
Groundbreaking for the stadium is scheduled for Nov. 7.
Here's a statement from from Kelm-Helgen:
“The MSFA and the Minnesota Vikings have been working towards the development and construction of the new Minnesota Multi-Purpose Stadium. We have been on budget and on schedule up to this point.
Today, the MSFA board had a report from the Hammes Company, the MSFA’s construction consultants, on the details of an updated construction schedule. The project can meet the July 2016 opening schedule if the MSFA and the Vikings finalize negotiations on the Use Agreement (UA) and the Development Agreement (DA) by September 15th.
Last week the team cancelled meetings on those agreements and yesterday notified the MSFA that they will not resume negotiations on these two critically important agreements until our additional due diligence into the New Jersey ruling regarding the Wilf’s is complete.
The schedule laid out today has construction beginning in November to meet the substantial completion date of July 2016. To meet this aggressive timeline, it is imperative that the MSFA and the Vikings work on these two issues concurrently - negotiate the UA and the DA and complete the additional due diligence required by the recent court decision. If these negotiations do not resume until September 15th, the entire schedule will slip a month.
Having received numerous questions about the schedule from the public the MSFA thought it was of critical importance to clarify the construction schedule.
Today the MSFA urged the Vikings organization to come back to the negotiating table by Monday, August 26th to ensure that the stadium project remains on time and on budget. The MSFA is ready to work evenings and weekends, if necessary, with the Vikings to finalize these important agreements to keep the July 2016 schedule.”