An investigation has been opened by Minnesota’s top auditor into the Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority’s (MSFA) control of two luxury suites at U.S. Bank Stadium on Wednesday, reports the Star Tribune.
Legislative Auditor Jim Nobles called it a “priority investigation” and will be looking into the MSFA’s usage of the suites that it controls.
Minnesota Senator Julie Rosen (R-Vernon Center), the incoming chair of the Senate Finance Committee, is demanding that the list of guests entertained in those suites be made public. She claims “drastic action” must be taken by either Governor Mark Dayton or the state legislature to increase the accountability and credibility of the MSFA.
MSFA controls 36 seats for each game, as well as free parking in the same lot used by Vikings players. At least some of the guests were not charged until the Star Tribune began an investigation, at which point the MSFA scrambled to collect something from their guests. The Star Tribune reports that among those paying last minute were Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges and her husband, Met Council Member Gary Cunningham; Minnesota Management and Budget Commissioner Myron Frans; Minneapolis City Attorney Susan Segal and her husband; and Minneapolis City Councilman Jacob Frey. Frey said he does not even like football.
The Star Tribune reports that each paid $200; $132 for their luxury seats and $68 for concessions. At the time of publication, the few remaining seats available directly from the Vikings for the game against the Bears on January 1 start at $160 for the third level of the stadium.
Former Minnesota Governor Arne Carlson has been a vocal critic of the $1.1 billion stadium and the taxpayer’s funding of half the cost. He told the Star Tribune that this new controversy, “is a very natural outcome because the process was thoroughly corrupt from the beginning.”
Governor Dayton has been hesitant to come down hard on the MSFA thus far. He said that this incident should not overshadow the work done by the organization and its chairwoman Michele Kelm-Helgen in delivering the stadium on time.
Kelm-Helgen was appointed as chair of MSFA by Dayton. She previously served as his deputy chief of staff for legislative affairs.
Both Kelm-Helgen and MSFA’s executive director Ted Mondale have been using the suites for family and friends as well. They claim it is justified due to the long hours they spent away from their families while working on the stadium.
The names of only 12 of the 252 people who have used the MSFA tickets have been released so far. The other 240 people have yet to be named.