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House OKs stadium authority changes

Minnesota Rep. Sarah Anderson of Plymouth and House Speaker Kurt Daudt of Crown talk on Monday, March 6, about Anderson's bill to restructure the governing board of U.S. Bank Stadium. Don Davis / Forum News Service

ST. PAUL—The Minnesota House wants to overhaul how U.S. Bank Stadium is governed.

Representatives voted 122-7 Monday night, March 6, to change how board members who oversee the stadium are appointed and bans free use of stadium suites by family and friends of board members.

"It was touted as a people's stadium, today we are returning it to the people," bill author Rep. Sara Anderson, R-Plymouth, said.

The vote comes after revelations that board members and key employees of the authority took friends and family to luxury suites for Vikings football games and other events in the stadium, which opened last fall. Some guests paid later, but some did not.

Over the weekend, the Star Tribune reported that authority Chairwoman Michele Kelm-Helgen got her family, friends and neighbors season Vikings tickets, jumping in line in front of fans who had season tickets for up to 50 years.

"The authority has broken the trust of the public," House Speaker Kurt Daudt, R-Crown, said about the Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority, a state body that runs the stadium.

The suites were supposed to be used to market the stadium to potential customers, but an Office of Legislative Auditor report showed about a third or the suites went for marketing while most went to board members and their friends and family.

Anderson's bill, which differs from one in the Senate, would give Minneapolis the right to appoint one person to the board, the governor another and each of the four legislative leaders one each. A certified public accountant also would be required to be appointed, with the full board naming its chairman.

Most of the "no" votes came from Minneapolis legislators. Anderson's bill reduces Minneapolis' authority to appoint members to the authority board.

No representative denied changes are needed at the authority, but Rep. Michael Nelson, D-Brooklyn Park, said Anderson is moving too quickly.

He said that lawmakers are reacting to news reports of authority actions that make them mad. "Oftentimes when we do that, we pass bad legislation."

Kelm-Helgen and Executive Director Ted Mondale resigned as authority employees, but Anderson said, "it is clear it is not limited to two individuals."

About the suites, she added: "The people's stadium is truly that. ... It is not a private clubhouse."

Anderson's bill only applies to U.S. Bank Stadium. She said she will continue to look at if changes are needed in other public stadium authorities.

Don Davis
Don Davis has been the Forum Communications Minnesota Capitol Bureau chief since 2001, covering state government and politics for two dozen newspapers in the state. Don also blogs at Capital Chatter on Areavoices.