Investigation continues into bird death toll of serial bird-killing Vikings stadium

If you like “When did you stop beating your wife?” stories, you’ll love how things are playing out in Minnesota, where the debate is now raging over exactly how many birds the Vikings stadium is killing each year:

  • The original report found 60 dead birds in a two-month period last summer and fall, which would amount to 360 dead birds a year. But! That was during peak migration season, so maybe it’s fewer dead birds than that. But also! That figure does not include “birds removed by maintenance staff, security guards, and scavengers,” or birds that are stunned only to fly away and die later, so maybe it’s more dead birds than that.
  • The Vikings have issued a statement saying that the report isn’t fair, because “it is not possible to make this conclusion based on intermittent monitoring with no direct comparisons for the same time period at other buildings.” Sure, our building kills birds, but maybe other buildings kill even more birds. ARREST THE REAL BIRD-KILLERS!

More dead bird news as it becomes available, hopefully after someone completes a poll of area cats to ask their annual bird consumption.

Vikings stadium is killing 500 birds a year and has no intention of stopping

When the Minnesota Vikings‘ new stadium was under construction, there were concerns that its giant glass windows would lure unsuspecting birds to their deaths. So now that the place is open, has the bird carnage been realized? You betcha!

Over the course of the monitoring period, volunteers found 60 dead birds. Another 14 were discovered stunned, laying on the ground.

Among the casualties were 21 white-throated sparrows, nine ruby-throated hummingbirds, and one snow bunting, a.k.a., “snowflakes,” an uncommon sighting for bird-watchers like [dead-bird-counting volunteer Jim] Sharpsteen, who says he’s never seen anything like this in downtown Minneapolis.

The findings, along with reports from maintenance staff and security guards, estimate that perhaps as many as 500 birds die annually as a result of the building. Even if the actual number is half that estimate, it would still make the stadium the most lethal structure for birds anywhere in Minnesota.

And if that’s not enough, Minneapolis City Pages also includes lots and lots of dead bird photos:

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(Full report here, with even more bird snuff porn.)

Sharpsteen and other bird-lovers would like to see the Vikings add a coating to the glass so that birds no longer mistakenly fly into it and break their little necks; the Vikings are instead conducting a formal study that is expected to be complete in 2019. By which time, if the estimates above are correct, another thousand bird corpses will litter the ground around the stadium. I sincerely hope that City Pages tweets out photos of all of them, or maybe honors them with a memorial mural.

Vikings ask people of Minnesota to build a fence to keep out people of Minnesota

The owners of the Minnesota Vikings want the state of Minnesota to help pay for a permanent fence around the $1-billion-plus new stadium that the state just helped pay to build, because why exactly?

Lester Bagley, the Vikes’ vice president of public affairs, says the fence would help maintain security. He cited the instance last season when protesters climbed the rafters to unfurl a banner denouncing the Dakota Access Pipeline.

When pressed by KARE 11 on how a new fence might have kept them at bay, Bagley admitted it wouldn’t, while noting that his argument sounded convincing at the time.

Ha ha ha, Minneapolis City Pages, very funny. What did Bagley really say?

Kent Erdahl: “Any indication that fencing was part of what (went wrong) in that last game?”

Lester Bagley: “No, it wasn’t but it still.. it showed that there are issues related to fan safety and stadium security that need to be addressed.”

Wow, okay, he pretty much did say that.

No price tag on the fence project yet, but Bagley did say he expected the state to share the cost of it, because “if it’s used for Vikings games and for non-Viking games, other events, it’s a shared cost.” I.e., the Vikings aren’t happy with their temporary fencing, and want a permanent fence, but if it’s permanent then just anybody who uses the stadium can use it, so you guys help pay for it, okay? Do you think this is the same argument Bagley used as a kid to get his parents to buy Pong “for the whole family”?

Vikings stadium paneling keeps coming loose, because it’s windy

The Minnesota Vikings‘ new $1.1 billion stadium is only four months old, and already bits are falling off it:

Workers have repaired a missing strip of zinc paneling that fell from U.S. Bank Stadium’s western prow on Monday, prompting building contractor M.A. Mortenson Construction to reinforce the facade in hopes of preventing further damage from high winds.

Mortenson executive John Wood said Wednesday that the company, along with subcontractor McGrath, will install additional fasteners to exterior panels in the coming weeks…

Initially, the panels were bolted down only along the bottom edge. After heavy storms last summer, some panels came loose and flapped in the wind. Mortenson workers then reinforced the panels along the top edge.

None of this is a catastrophe or anything — the zinc panels turned out not to be fastened securely enough to hold up to severe weather, and the contractor will fix it under the building’s two-year warranty. But it’s a worthwhile reminder that buildings require upkeep, so something coming loose isn’t any more a sign that a stadium is in need of replacement when it’s four months old than when it’s 40 years old. Though if you want to go ahead and make “U.S. Bank Stadium is falling apart, time to build a new one” jokes, by all means be my guest.

MN gov: Who said Vikings could have exclusive soccer rights to stadium? (whistles, averts eyes)

Minnesota United, which starts play in the MLS next year, is building a new stadium in St. Paul, with the help of state tax breaks. The team’s owners would like to use U.S. Bank Stadium, the new home of the Vikings that got about half a billion dollars in state funds and is owned by the state so that it can get hundreds of millions more in property tax breaks, for a few friendly matches (that’s soccer for “exhibition games”) against international teams. Vikings owner Zygi Wilf, whose own application for an MLS franchise was rejected in favor of Minnesota United’s (which was backed by, among others, the owner of the Twins), is now threatening to sue, saying they have exclusive rights to have an MLS team play home games at the stadium, and exhibition games count as home games, so nyah.

All this pissing match between two sports gorillas (er, sorry for that image) has left Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton in the rare position of being able to attack one local sports baron in the defense of another, and he took full advantage on Wednesday:

Gov. Mark Dayton called the Vikings’ opposition to possible Major League Soccer games at U.S. Bank Stadium “sour grapes” because the team’s owners lost an expansion franchise to a rival group led by former UnitedHealth Group CEO Bill McGuire…

“This is not the Vikings’ stadium,” he added. “This is the people of Minnesota’s stadium. It’s run by the stadium authority for the people’s benefit which means generating opportunities for Minnesotans to come together and support the various opportunities they enjoy.”

You go, Mark! Maybe everyone will forget that the whole reason the Vikings have that stadium — and the lease clause about soccer rights — is because you spent years campaigning for it.

 

Minnesota officials defend free suites for Vikings games as needed to conduct, uh, “business”

Here we go again: The Minneapolis Star Tribune revealed yesterday that board members of the state-run Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority get use of two free luxury suites to Vikings games as part of the deal that approved more than a billion dollars in public stadium subsidies. That’s fairly common, as is outrage over the impropriety of such deals once they’re revealed.

The twist in the Minneapolis case is that even though the suites are supposed to be used for business purposes (wink, wink), nobody on the MSFA will say who’s using the tickets (and free food and parking passes), and insist that secrecy is vital to the cause of conducting government business at football games:

MSFA Chairwoman Michele Kelm-Helgen and Executive Director Ted Mondale say confidentiality is critical as they seek to book the stadium’s event spaces to cover the cost of amateur events such as high school football, baseball and soccer games, along with University of Minnesota baseball games.

“If people think they’re going to be in the newspaper, it’s not going to be effective,” Mondale said.

Or it could be because they’re bringing family members and campaign donors to games, in violation of the state’s ban on public officials accepting gifts outside of their government duties. Who can say! That’s what makes secrecy so fun!

The big question here, obviously, is whether there was some sort of quid pro quo that induced state officials to approve the stadium funding by offering them free tickets to games. Probably not directly — the people on the MSFA board aren’t the same legislators who voted to approve the deal back in 2012. But lots of stuff happens indirectly in politics, which is why there are laws against taking gifts. Plus it just looks really, really bad when taxpayers are paying the bills on a $1-billion-plus stadium plus PSL fees and higher ticket prices, and state bigwigs are getting to watch games for free.

(Also, obligatory note: Ha ha, Ted Mondale thinks people still read the newspaper! He’s so quaint.)

Brand-new Vikings stadium forces players to be carried to locker room through sports bar

The Minnesota Vikings held their first regular-season game yesterday at their new US Bank Stadium — or, as Minneapolis City Pages readers voted to nickname it, A Bad Use of Taxpayer Money — and star running back Adrian Peterson got hurt, as football players will do with alarming regularity. Then he had to be carried to the locker room through a restaurant:

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Having players walk from the locker room to the field past fans is an increasingly popular design decision, and this was being sold as a plus just a couple of months ago:

After Vikings players get ready in the locker room, it is really just a short walk out onto the field — and that walk will be a cool part for fans and players alike.

They go down a pathway through what is called the Delta Sky Club, which fans can be at pregame, during the game and postgame. Players walk right past the fans and out onto the field for pregame warmups.

This, it now turns out, was a really really bad idea. Maybe there’s a shortcut that Vikings staffers could have taken with Peterson but they didn’t? That would be a good thing. Otherwise, the Bad Use of Taxpayer Money just got a little bit worse.

Stadium openings in Minnesota, Miami offer ear-splitting noise, fears of Zika and hurricanes

It’s almost football season, which means it’s time for the debut of new and/or newly renovated stadiums. In Minnesota, the Vikings‘ new $1.1 billion dome (nearly all of it funded with public money) opened for a preseason game on Sunday, and it was really really loud in there:

But several Vikings players compared its volume favorably to the Metrodome after a preseason game, and initial acoustic readings topped out at 114 decibels during the 23-10 win over the San Diego Chargers.

That’s up from 105 decibels at a soccer match the week before, and about the same as the team averaged at the old Metrodome. So not out of the ordinary, but still, that’s way louder than the average stadium, and potentially ear-damaging, says WCCO:

U.S. Bank Stadium could be the loudest stadium Minnesota has ever seen. The Minnesota Vikings website says the roof on U.S. Bank Stadium features more “acoustically reflective material” and “should make the stadium louder” than the Metrodome.

A local radio station measured the sound during the soccer match at U.S. Bank Stadium reaching over 105 decibels. HealthPartners says that is ten times louder than the volume at an average NFL stadium.

Dr. Geddes says any sound over 85 decibels can damage tiny cells inside the ear. Even if your ears stop ringing after a loud event, you could have problems down the line.

“It’s not necessarily that you go home with permanent hearing loss after one-time visit, but over an extended period you may have noise-induced hearing loss,” Dr. Geddes said.

Dr. Geddes says it’s important to wear ear plugs during loud games.

I can’t tell from the coverage whether this was loud crowd noise or loud amplified music and such. But either way: It’s loud, which is what the Vikings intended, so wear protection.

And speaking of protection, the Miami Dolphins unveil their $350 million stadium renovations on Thursday (most of privately funded by owner Stephen Ross, though he’s still trying to get more public money retroactively), and have spent the runup busily spraying everything in sight for Zika-carrying mosquitoes, and hoping they don’t get hit by a hurricane.

If anyone here went to the Vikings game or goes to the Dolphins game and has any less apocalyptic reviews, please share them in comments.

Hundred-million-dollar “or” could threaten Vikings, United stadium funding

Minnesota has been through some awfully weird stadium shenanigans in its time, but this takes the cake: A one-word typo in a tax bill meant to raise money to pay off the almost-completed Vikings stadium is now endangering not just funding for that project, but for the new Minnesota United stadium, too.

How’s that work, exactly? Well, it seems as if the Minnesota state legislature, as part of a bill designating pulltab gambling money for the new Vikings stadium, intended to carve out a tax exemption for bingo halls — i.e., places where bingo is the main business, not other gambling establishments that happen to host bingo from time to time. So they wrote this into the legislation:

[A bingo hall is a place where an organization] regularly conducts bingo if that organization gets half of its revenue from bingo or no other organization conducts lawful gambling.

See the problem here? If that “or” were an “and,” only organizations that got the majority of their revenue from bingo could get the tax break. Instead, any gambling organization can get it just by “regularly conducting bingo,” so long as it’s the only gambling organization on the site. It’s a whopper of a typo, one that state budget officers say would cost the state $100 million in revenues over the next three years, “all of the revenue over the next three years from charitable gambling intended to offset [Vikings] stadium expenses.”

That’s right up there with the infamous million-dollar comma, but the fallout from the typo could be even more far-reaching: Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton says he’ll veto the entire tax bill unless the typo is fixed, and since the tax bill also contains Minnesota United’s $54 million property tax exemption for their new stadium, now suddenly the expansion MLS franchise is caught up in this, too.

It’s extremely likely that all this will get worked out, but with the legislature already having ended its session for the year, it may not be a simple fix. (Some legislators are saying they’ll just write a letter saying “that’s not what we meant,” but state budget officials say a special session would be needed to set this right.) In any case, it’s all a great opportunity to point and laugh at Minnesota elected officials, not to mention a terrific case for why it’s important to have copy editors.