It was a foregone conclusion (to me, at least) which architecture firm would win the contract to design the new Vikings football stadium. In every embroiled legislative session on the project last spring, you’d hear the phrase “like Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis.”
And, sure enough, this morning, the Minnesota Stadium Facilities Authority voted to award a $34 million contract to HKS Sports and Entertainment Group, the Dallas firm that designed the home of the Colts — which played host to the Superbowl this year. The firm also designed the Dallas Cowboys’ stadium in Arlington, Texas, which seats 80,000 fans.
They beat out AECOM, which has offices here; Ewing Cole, a Philadelphia firm; HTNB, designers of the Broncos Stadium at Mile High in Denver; and Populous, which designed almost all major sports venues in the Twin Cities — Target Field, TCF Stadium and the Xcel Energy Center.
Authority Chair Michele Kelm-Helgen said that HKS had not submitted the lowest bid, although she added that “the market is very competitive.” (The $34 million “was a lot lower than when we started,” said Duane Benson, an Authority commissioner and former state senator.)
HKS was not chosen for its design — although the firm did present some conceptual drawings (shown here) — but for its experience, its qualifications and its ability to deal with both fixed and retractable roofs. The firm’s Indianapolis work also gives it experience dropping a stadium into the middle of a city.
Both Lucas Oil and the Cowboys’ stadiums have retractable roofs, and the former also features a window wall. Another ingredient in the choice, says Tom Fisher, dean of the University School of Architecture: “They had to really want it.”
HKS also has agreed to award a minimum of 19 percent of the subcontracting work to minority- and women-owned firms.
Another arrow in HKS’ quiver, according to Vikings spokesman Lester Bagley, is its ability “to build maximum flexibility into the buildings.”
Although he didn’t say so directly, this seems to translate to the possible creation of more premium seating, suites and other high-priced accommodations that would net more income.
Bryan Truby, HKS’ design principal, said that the firm prides itself on listening to what fans want in a stadium.
“You have to look at the image that’s projected,” he said. “The Cowboys wanted a modern, edgy stadium. But [when listening to people in Indianapolis], they wanted something that would project a historic look to the architecture — something very traditional, making them unique.” In fact, Lucas stadium does resemble a burly Midwestern factory.
To get that sense of the local, Kelm-Helgen announced a listening tour that would start perhaps next month to gather opinions from people across the state and from the immediate neighborhoods in which the stadium will sit — downtown and Elliot Park.
While the design remains in flux, Ted Mondale, the Authority’s executive director, said that a verdict on a retractable roof would have to be made soon — perhaps by January or February — because other elements of the project would depend on that decision.