MSFA chair says 'I get it' on stadium suites

Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority Chair Michele Kelm-Helgen told a panel of state lawmakers Wednesday that she has heard the public outcry over family members and friends of commissioners using two publicly owned suites at US Bank Stadium.

“I hear it, and I get it, and I understand it,” said Kelm-Helgen.

She appeared before a meeting of the House Government Operations Committee at the state legislature. It was her first appearance before the committee for the 2017 legislative session which is typically an overview and get acquainted meeting. But, it quickly turned to questions about the use of the stadium suites as reported in the media this fall, including a new report on Wednesday that the food bill in the publicly owned suites totaled $32,000.

Helm-Helgen told legislators the Authority reversed its policy as of the last Viking’s home game and no longer allows friends and family members of commissioners to attend events.

“It’s not worth having anyone losing faith in the Authority over and issue like this,” Helm-Kelgen told lawmakers.

She also explained that the policy was a carryover from the Metrodome. She said Target Field along with the Xcel Energy Center and TCF Bank Stadium also have similar policies allowing friends and family members of stadium executives into their public suites. 

But Rep. Daune Quam of Byron responded, “First, a bit of advice. If it’s [standard operating procedure] somewhere else doesn’t mean that it’s right.”

After the hearing, Rep. Jim Nash also questioned the practice. 

“I think it makes it a worse argument that everyone else is doing it, but it’s owned by the people of Minnesota," Nash said. 

Kelm-Helgen suggested to lawmakers that it might consider leveling the playing field.  

“And maybe the legislature addresses it,” Kelm-Helgen said.  “And it could be a new day and maybe it says it doesn’t matter if you’re the ballpark authority or Xcel or you’re U.S. Bank Stadium, friends and families in these suites in these public buildings will not be used that way.”