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Imported steel has at least one Vikings stadium supporter seeing red

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Gubernatorial candidate Tom Rukavina addresses delegates at the 2010 DFL convention at the Duluth Entertainment and Convention Center Saturday, April 24, 2010. (MPR Photo/Derek Montgomery)

By BRIAN BAKST, Associated Press

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) _ Backers of the controversial $1 billion Vikings stadium regularly hold the project up as an economic driver that will boost the state construction industry and rely heavily on Minnesota-derived materials.

Construction planners demonstrated last week that those goals are easier stated than achieved. Take the steel that will make up the stadium skeleton and hold up the translucent roof.

Mortenson Construction executive John Wood told the Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority that some high-grade steel to hold up the transparent roof will be imported from Europe. He says officials are ordering from a Luxembourg manufacturer that's a global provider of the extra-strength steel.

Wood says the 7,000 tons of steel that make up the perimeter of the stadium can be drawn domestically, but even that will probably have only small traces of Minnesota in it.

State lawmakers made clear they want northern Minnesota's Iron Range to be a major player. "To the extent practicable, the authority and the team must ensure that the stadium be built with American-made steel that is made from Minnesota iron ore," the state stadium law passed in 2012 says.

Former state House member Tom Rukavina says he's annoyed that the new Vikings stadium requires ore from overseas. “That, to me, is sinful is what it is," Rukavina said. "Looking outside the country is disturbing to me,” he told the AP.

Rukavina, a Democrat from Virginia, pushed for laws requiring that Minnesota-made products be used in state construction projects. He says the ore requirement contributed to the vote for the new Vikings stadium.

Chairwoman Michele Kelm-Helgen says some technical specifications are so precise that the construction team has few options. But she says officials are focused on spending much of the budget on local supplies and workers.