Sports Authority Chair, NFL Execs Talk Vikings Stadium

Posted at: 08/28/2013 1:13 PM
Updated at: 08/29/2013 7:41 AM
By: Tom Hauser

The chairwoman of the Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority quietly traveled to New York last week to meet face-to-face with NFL executives. 

Commissioner Roger Goodell was out of town, but Michele Kelm-Helgen met with an executive vice president and the league chief legal counsel. "I just felt like I needed to sit across the table and look eye-to-eye with NFL officials so they could assure us they are still committed to this project," Kelm-Helgen said. 

She left the meetings confident the NFL remains committed to the $975 million stadium development. Kelm-Helgen attended the meetings with Peter Carter, the attorney from Dorsey and Whitney hired to do extra "due diligence" on the finances of Zygi and Mark Wilf. Another attorney from Dorsey's New York office will meet with NFL officials to review documents requested by the sports authority.

Meanwhile, the Vikings have turned over many more financial documents that are being reviewed by a forensic accounting firm hired by the authority. Kelm-Helgen says the Vikings cooperation with the due diligence likely means the review will be done by or before Sept. 15. 

However, a couple sticking points remain. The Vikings have still not agreed to pay for the extra accounting and legal work. She says they also haven't resumed negotiating key lease and construction agreements needed before the state can sell bonds and construction can begin.

In an interview at the State Fair this afternoon, Governor Dayton says he expects a few more "rough patches" before construction begins. "That's not uncommon in a deal of this magnitude," Dayton says, adding he expects the problems to eventually be overcome with a stadium ready to open by the 2016 season.  

The one, big remaining unknown is the size of the judgment a New Jersey judge will impose on the Wilf's after finding the family real estate business guilty of violating civil fraud and racketeering laws. It's unclear whether that will impact the Wilf's ability to finance their $477 million portion of the stadium financing.