Vikings official: 'No more wiggle room' in stadium construction schedule as finish date slides

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ST. PAUL, Minnesota — The latest construction schedule for the Minnesota Vikings $1 billion stadium leaves "no more wiggle room," a team official said Wednesday.

Minnesota Vikings vice president Lester Bagley told The Associated Press that the new "substantial completion" date of July 29 will be cutting it close. It has slid by a full month since an initial schedule was adopted less than a year ago. The Vikings are set to hold the inaugural preseason in mid-August 2016, but Bagley said the team is banking on having a soft-opening first.

"We want to get an event or events in before the first Vikings game to get the bugs out and run people through there," Bagley said. "There's no more wiggle room for sure. But everyone has buckled down to get it done."

Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority chairwoman Michele Kelm-Helgen apprised a legislative oversight panel of construction progress Wednesday and the revised date was included in her presentation without reference to it being changed. As if to demonstrate the aggressive timeline, Kelm-Helgen told lawmakers that crews have recently been working around the clock to take advantage of good weather and she said the signature part-glass roof could start taking shape early next year.

"If you drive by you'll be amazed to see the progress being made," she said.

Authority spokeswoman Jennifer Hathaway stressed later that the completion date is around the same time as earlier goals.

"We will have access to the building for tours and pre-opening events prior to July 28," Hathaway said.

The completion deadline is part of signed contracts between the Vikings, the main builder and the public authority. It was initially set at July 1 and later amended to July 15 before the latest delay. If the building isn't ready by the deadline, that could trigger penalties against Mortenson Construction. Cosmetic work or repairs to fix defects can occur after that date, but substantial completion isn't reached until certificates or licenses for opening to the general public have been issued.

Minnesota taxpayers are footing $477 million of the construction tab, and the Vikings must come up with $526 million in private money. The stadium, which will host the 2018 Super Bowl, is being built where the Metrodome once stood. Crews are six months into construction and more than 570 workers are on site on a daily basis.

Environmental groups have expressed concern about the glass roof being a hazard to birds. They have asked for special glazing techniques to keep birds from smashing into it, but the team and authority have balked for cost and design reasons. What's more, construction managers have already ordered specially fabricated glass panels contained in the original design; Kelm-Helgen said those will be installed starting in December or January.

Kelm-Helgen told the Legislative Commission on Minnesota Sports Facilities that the stadium authority has committed to lighting changes to minimize bird harm.

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