Photo Courtesy of HKS Group
Developer is considering trimming height of pivoting doors from 95 to 80 ft.

Thanks mostly to a stronger market, bids are coming in over budget for the estimated $975-million Minnesota Vikings football stadium in Minneapolis. Work is scheduled to begin next month and be completed in 2016.

The Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority—the public developer—says negotiations between subcontractors and construction manager Mortenson Construction are ongoing. The design by HKS Group will not change, but some specifications may be altered, says MSFA.

For instance, the height of pivoting doors may go from 95 ft to 80 ft. "We are evaluating changing other [amenities] we feel will not be noticed by spectators," says Michele Kelm-Helgen, MSFA's chair.

Mortenson is preparing to submit a guaranteed maximum price to MSFA before the end of the month. None of the bids are finalized and the preliminary process under way is meant to help Mortenson present a realistic final price, says MSFA. Once the GMP is submitted, Mortenson can begin selecting subcontractors, Kelm-Helgen says.

The project, expected to create 7,500 construction jobs, is viewed as a major contributor to economic recovery, says Dave Semerad, CEO of the Associated General Contractors of Minnesota. "Minnesota lost 50,000 construction jobs during the recession, but now credit is starting to flow, developers are more active and many projects are starting," he adds.

The project's minority-business-enterprise hiring goal, mandated by state legislation, is 32%. "I think it's good for construction and the state [but] some of those workers haven't been on construction jobs," Semerad says. "There will be some trials and tribulations."

Other tensions involve Mortenson's selection of a construction manager-at-risk delivery method, which allows it to self-perform some work. Subcontractors are excited about the project but not happy with the arrangement.

"There's a paradox when a general contractor expresses that they have to self-perform to be able to deliver a project on cost and on schedule," said Mike Schmaltz, executive director of the Minnesota Subcontractors Association. "The GC's role is to coordinate all of the different disciplines and pull them together and make it work. Over-reliance on the GC is an easy answer, but not the best answer."

The Vikings team is responsible for $477 million of the total cost. The state is footing $348 million of the bill, and the city is putting up $150 million.

"Because the public is paying for this, they deserve fair and open bidding," Schmaltz says.

Mortenson, which is leading a joint venture with THOR Construction Inc., declined to comment on the subject.