US Bank Stadium Suites Scandal Leads to Reforms

Suite 2The housecleaning continues at U.S. Bank Stadium in the aftermath of revelations of political perks handed out by DFL insiders. It’s a big house to clean, but here’s a scorecard compiled from the Star Tribune of reforms taking shape in the aftermath of legislative oversight hearings earlier this year.

For starters, the two luxury suites used to wine and dine Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges and her husband, Minneapolis City Councilman Jacob Frey, Minneapolis City Attorney Susan Segal and her husband Commissioner of Management and Budget Myron Frans and other Dayton administration cronies will be officially turned over to SMG, the management company in charge of the stadium.

Two of U.S. Bank Stadium’s most luxurious suites formerly used to entertain friends and family of its state oversight board will be ceded to the stadium’s operator for the upcoming Vikings season and blockbuster concerts like Guns N’ Roses, Justin Bieber and U2.

Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority (MSFA) interim Chairwoman Kathleen Blatz said that’s what the suites, which can accommodate up to 18 guests each, were intended for. SMG can use the suites to build relationships with “people they want to do business with or want to do more business with.”

Blatz made it clear political connections will no longer play a part in who sits in the box suites on the 20 yard line. It’s all business.

 Blatz said the suites won’t be misused again. New executive director Rick Evans will likely attend games and events, but he will spend his time walking the building to monitor the operation and see how lines and crowds are moving.

“I really agree SMG is the primary marketer of the stadium,” Blatz said.

Dayton et alMeantime, the dynamic DFL duo of Michele Kelm-Helgen, former Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority chair, and Ted Mondale, former MFSA executive director Ted Mondale, left their lucrative positions months ago. Kelm-Helgen’s replacement will be a part-timer who earns $60,000, far less than the $145,000 the former top aide to Gov. Dayton pulled down.

“I feel very strongly that a part-time position would be adequate,” interim Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority Chairwoman Kathleen Blatz said at Thursday’s meeting. Blatz, a former state Supreme Court chief justice, has been in the job since February when Gov. Mark Dayton’s previous appointee to the job, Michele Kelm-Helgen, resigned over her use of two of the most expensive suites at the new $1.1 billion publicly subsidized stadium.

Blatz said a $60,000 salary was consistent with what was paid to those who occupied a similar position at the Metrodome. Taxpayers pay for the board, which serves to represent the public interests in the stadium.

The chairperson will preside at meetings, serve as the principal spokesperson and represent the authority to the Legislature and other governmental bodies. The chairperson is also responsible for community outreach.

But new MFSA executive director Rick Evans acknowledges the state agency has a long way to go to regain public trust.

…Evans said the staff members had done “terrific work” and he felt bad there exists “mistrust and misperception” by the public about how hard they work. “We’ll perform, and the truth will be seen,” he said.