Cost overruns for stadium get contentious

There is debate on how much money change orders will cost and who will foot the bill as construction of the new stadium continues.

With the Minnesota Vikings getting ready for the start of training camp, it would appear as though the business side of the Vikings new stadium is having some in-house pad-hitting of its own.

In an interview on Minnesota Public Radio, Minnesota Sports Facility Authority Chairwoman Michele Kelm-Helgen disputed numbers being thrown out by former State Senator Duane Benson. Benson, who announced his resignation from the MSFA in June citing a “governance dispute” he has with the MSFA board, claimed this week that the unknown charge order costs that are going to come due on the stadium in the final year of construction could reach as high as $50 million.

Benson claimed earlier this week that unknown costs that remain outstanding are in the range of $30-50 million – a figure Benson claims is currently growing at a rate of about $300,000 a week.

Benson believes the problem lies within the hierarchy of the MSFA, with Kelm-Helgen and Executive Director Ted Mondale have differing, yet overlapping authority within the Authority. Benson’s claim is that construction officials have been given the impression from one or the other that more money will be available to address the change orders, which are the bane of any large construction project.

On MPR Thursday, Kelm-Helgen disputed the Benson allegations, saying, “I have not seen any documentation from anyone that would validate that number. I don’t see that there’s any factual basis for that $50 million number.”

Perhaps somewhere in the middle of $50 million and “I think not” lies the truth.

Officials from Mortenson Construction claim that there are about $15 million in unpaid change orders, but said that there is a $30 million contingency fund to cover those costs.

Kelm-Helgen said that the question isn’t cost overruns, but what is covered by the bid specifications made by Mortenson at the time the contract was awarded.

“The reason that we are negotiating these costs is that we do not believe that all of those costs are warranted to be paid by us,” Kelm-Helgen said. “It’s not like if you have the money to pay it, why don’t you just pay it? We don’t believe we owe all that money.”

The bigger question will be, if Benson’s guesstimates are accurate, who is on the hook to pay the added costs? The Vikings’ owners have ponied up almost an extra $100 million and few people expect them to be on the hook anymore.

Although there is much wrangling now, years from now few people will remember these issues.

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