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Minnesota Vikings adding $19 million to stadium project to guarantee features

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MINNEAPOLIS - The Minnesota Vikings are kicking in another $19.7 million for their new stadium to make sure it has the features they want.

Rising steel prices and refined cost estimates for the stadium's massive pivoting glass doors created a budget shortfall and left the Vikings with a choice: Scrap certain features to cut costs or increase their share of the project.

Steve Poppen, the Vikings' chief financial officer, said scaling back stadium design was "never an option." The Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority, the board overseeing stadium construction, approved the increased spending Friday.

"Our goal has always been to have the best game day experience, for our fans and for all Minnesotans who come to visit this stadium," Poppen said.

The new stadium is due to open in 2016. The Vikings are playing outdoors at the University of Minnesota until then.

Combined with tapping a $26.4 million contingency fund and previous additions for larger video boards and more televisions and escalators, the Vikings have added $49 million to the project over the past year. Their contribution now stands at $525.6 million, a little more than half the $1.023 billion project, with taxpayers covering the rest.

Facilities authority chairwoman Michelle Kelm-Helgen said much of the cost increase was due to incomplete estimates on how much certain parts of the project would cost, like the elaborate glass doors at the stadium's west end, ductwork in the upper sections and an internal system that will deliver beer kegs to concession stands throughout the stadium.

Kelm-Helgen said she's confident the board won't face any more budget gaps.

The Vikings and the stadium authority also announced that SMG has signed a 10-year deal to market and operate the stadium. SMG already runs NFL stadiums in Chicago, New Orleans, Houston and Jacksonville, and its facilities have hosted nine Super Bowls. Minneapolis is due to host the 2018 Super Bowl.

Vikings spokesman Lester Bagley said that experience and attracting other events were big factors in choosing the company over competitors AEG, which runs the Target Center, and Global Spectrum.

The board also established a rent of $20,000 per game for a Major League Soccer franchise to use the stadium. The league has been eyeing Minneapolis and several other markets for possible expansion, and the Vikings hope to own such a team. The rental rate, set after working with consultants, was seen as offering some cost certainty for the market.

"We think we're one step closer to having an MLS franchise in this building," Bagley said.

An MLS spokesman said the league wouldn't comment on the rent price, but said they've had many talks about starting a team in Minneapolis.

"There is no doubt that the Twin Cities have some of the most passionate soccer fans in the country, and we will continue to monitor the market," spokesman Dan Courtemanche wrote in an email.

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