A cloud of uncertainty has been thrown over the construction schedule – and potentially the cost – of the new Vikings stadium, slated to open by July 2016.
And by late afternoon, the Vikings confirmed they had backed out of any kind of further negotiations until some dust settles.
Michele Kelm-Helgen, chair of the Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority, said Friday morning that the team this week stopped negotiating critical user and development agreements until the panel had finished a due-diligence investigation into the finances of Vikings owner Zygi Wilf, the Star Tribune reports. The probe was launched after Zygi and Mark Wilf lost a civil lawsuit in New Jersey on Aug. 5 that could ultimately cost them a lot of money.
Zygi and Mark Wilf have told fans that the civil lawsuit against them will have “absolutely no impact” on the new $975 million stadium project. The Star Tribune says Vikings spokesman Lester Bagley on Friday said, "We remain confident that the stadium project will be completed as planned and on schedule."
In fact, late Friday, Jeff Anderson, the team's director of corporate communications, took to posting on Vikings.com that "Rest assured Vikings fans, the new home for Vikings football remains on time and on budget."
The 21-year-old lawsuit in New Jersey has nothing to do with the stadium – it centers on an unrelated Wilf development project – but it is likely to drain some of their cash, perhaps as much as $50 million.
The stadium panel's investigation of the Wilfs' finances needs to wrap by Sept. 15 to hit a Nov. 7 construction start date, the Business Journal reports.
But postponing any deadlines in the process could lead to delays in the construction timeline, and potentially cost overruns, some of which could land on taxpayers, the Star Tribune reports. Kelm-Helgen said the panel is now thinking that the start of significant construction could be put off until November, later than a planned October start, the Pioneer Press reports.
MinnPost on Friday morning tackles seven questions that need to be answered related to the stadium. No. 1: Shouldn't somebody in state government have known about the Wilfs' New Jersey lawsuit?
Despite final contracts for the stadium construction being on hold, Minnesota has already traveled tens of millions of dollars down the road toward establishing a new home for the Vikings. The Associated Press reports nearly two dozen contracts have been signed with architects, lawyers, engineers, and consultants.