Vikings stadium mixes foreign, local elements

The Vikings stadium will have to include some imported steel, according to Mortenson Construction, but there are plenty of Minnesota businesses involved in the project.

Backers of the $1 billion Vikings stadium regularly tout the project as an economic driver that will boost the state's construction industry and rely heavily on Minnesota-derived materials.

Construction planners showed last week that those goals are easier stated than achieved.

For instance, take the steel that will make up the stadium skeleton and hold up the translucent roof. 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 law approved in 2012 reads.

But Mortenson Construction executive John Wood turned a few heads when he told the Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority that some high-grade steel will be imported from Europe, particularly the long beams that will hold the roof up. He said officials were placing an order with a Luxembourg manufacturer that is a global provider of the extra-strength steel.

Wood said after the authority's meeting that the 7,000 tons of steel that make up the perimeter can be drawn domestically, but even that will probably have only small traces of Minnesota in it.

"Minnesota doesn't mill steel. It produces taconite pellets used in the steel milling industry. It actually does not produce directly structural steel used in buildings," Wood explained. "The majority of structural steel used in buildings all over the country is produced from scrap. There isn't a direct connection between Minnesota taconite and a piece of steel you are going to find in any building structure."

Former state Rep. Tom Rukavina, a Democrat from Virginia pressed for the Minnesota ore provision and said it contributed to the vote for the bill. He's annoyed that the building requires an overseas shipment.

"That, to me, is sinful is what it is," Rukavina said. "Looking outside the country is disturbing to me."

That's not to say the steel structure won't have a Minnesota component. One subcontractor is Minneapolis-based LeJeune Steel Co., which will place the steel order, cut the pieces down to size and prepare any connections needed for installation.

Stadium authority Chairwoman Michele Kelm-Helgen said some technical specifications are so precise that the construction team has no choice but to look outside the state, including for the glass roof panels that will be a defining feature.

But she said officials are focused on spending much of the stadium budget on buying local supplies and hiring local workers, thousands of whom will be needed to build and staff the place. After all, about half of the expected $1 billion cost will come from state taxpayers and the city of Minneapolis.

The stadium law sets a goal of getting at least 25 percent of all construction materials from Minnesota businesses and carrying that through when the building opens by serving Minnesota-made beer and hotdogs.

There's already a strong Minnesota flavor to the project.

Lead contractor Mortenson is based in Golden Valley, and associated firm Thor Construction is headquartered in Minneapolis. Excavating and demolition duties fall to Ames Construction of Burnsville in concert with Frattalone Companies of Little Canada. The super-deep support pier foundations will be drilled by Rogers-based Veit Companies.

"We're definitely making that a high priority, and we will assure you that's how we're going to approach this job — Minnesota workers, Minnesota companies, Minnesota businesses," Kelm-Helgen told reporters Friday.

Major construction on the new stadium gets underway early next year when the Metrodome will be methodically demolished. The new stadium is slated to open for the 2016 season.


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