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Dayton: Only small amount of foreign steel in new Vikings stadium

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Gov. Mark Dayton is defending plans to order structural steel for the new Vikings stadium from Luxembourg.

Here's what he said at a press conference at his office today when asked about the steel order, which was among the details released about the new Vikings stadium deal reached on Friday:

"There's a special kind of steel that's manufactured only in Europe and that's being used for these long (roof trusses). Eighteen thousand total tons of steel (are) required for the stadium and 4,000 tons are being imported from Luxembourg. So the balance, 14,000 tons, will all be purchased in the United States. The total cost for all the steel is $82 million. The foreign steel costs $5 million, so the other $77 million will be spent with U.S. companies, most of which will be in Minnesota compliance."

Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority chairwoman Michele Kelm-Helgen says the overall steel budget includes the costs to actually fabricate parts from the raw material and install the finished product -- services that will be done largely by Minnesota firms. She says that's why the imported raw materials account for about 20 percent of the weight, but only about 6 percent of the total cost of the steel.

John Wood, heading the building project for Mortenson Construction, said Friday that the long lead time on Grade 65 steel for the stadium's roof required his company to order the specialized materials as quickly as possible from ArcelorMittal, a European steel giant.

"While we have in almost every other respect respected the obligation to really maximize the use of Minnesota produced products and materials in this project, there is one major exception to that and that is the kind of steel that is used for the roof structure of this building, is only produced in Luxembourg in Europe, by Arcelor, major steel supplier that produces a particularly high strength steel that isn't available domestically in the United States. That steel has a long lead time, to be milled in Luxembourg, and then of course to be shipped across the Atlantic to the United States, and then fabricated in LeJuene, their partners', fabrication shops. It is a very critical milestone to be able to place that order."

A spokeswoman for the Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority also said Mortenson and the building's planners think using the steel could reduce the amount of steel required for the roof by 900 tons. Which is a lot for the 3,600 tons of Grade 65 steel the plans call for.

Nonetheless, the plan drew the ire of at least one Iron Ranger, former DFL state legislator Tom Rukavina, who called the importation a "sin" this weekend.

His successor, DFLer Carly Melin of Hibbing, says Minnesota taconite accounts for about 80 percent of the steel produced by U.S. Steel in Pittsburgh. She says a U.S. Steel facility in Chicago also uses Minnesota taconite.

"Right now, there's only a place in Luxembourg that makes it, but have they asked U.S. Steel if they would?," Melin asked. "That's my question. Is that something that can be manufactured at U.S. Steel. I don't see why they couldn't and if the demand is there, why wouldn't they?"

Others are a little more sanguine about the purchase. Sen. David Tomassoni, of Chisolm, said lawmakers realized that some steel might need to be imported for the stadium, and tried to accomodate that in the law. And he's satisfied that the vast majority of the steel budget is expected to be domestic spending. "That's a postive thing," he said in an interview.

Dayton also said he was satisfied that the Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority was doing what it could to locally source the materials and labor for the new stadium.

"It's unfortunate that they have to import anything, but if there's a certain requirement that's necessary, then that's the way it is," Dayton said.

Here's the one-page explainer that the Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority offered today: