MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — The Minnesota Sports Authority announced Monday it will no longer allow friends or family members free use of luxury suites at U.S. Bank Stadium.
Stadium officials also made public a list of people who used the suites for free, including some well-known Minnesotans. All of this came after Minnesota’s Legislative Auditor opened what he calls a “priority” investigation.
Stadium officials used two luxury suites at US Bank Stadium for free tickets for friends and family — the same suites the Minnesota Vikings sell privately for $25,000 to $35,000 per game.
“We have heard loud and clear that people are concerned about continuing a policy that allows family and friends to come to the suites,” said Michele Kelm-Helgen, the Chair of the Minnesota Sports Authority, which oversees the stadium operations.
Stadium officials made public a list of 143 people who got suite access to Vikings games, U.S. Women’s soccer, and concerts by Metallica and Luke Bryan.
Now, there’s a new policy: No more freebies.
“We should have realized that for whatever reason this stadium sets new standards all the time, and clearly the public expects us to meet a higher standard,” Kelm-Helgen said.
Stadium CEO Ted Mondale had the most guests: 52 friends and family. Commissioner Barbara Butts Williams had 36 guests. Commissioner Bill McCarthy entertained 26 guests for free. Commissioner Tony Sertich had 23 and Commissioner John Griffith had six.
The Sports Authority said from now on it will restrict access to suites for marketing purposes only, and keep records of who attends. But Mondale says making the names of guests public will hurt efforts to to sell the facility for money making events.
“I think they will be less likely to come,” Mondale said. “We will probably have to spend more time taking them around when there isn’t an event, which I think is too bad.”
Stadium officials say their suite policy was similar to other Twin Cities facilities, but now it’s among the strictest in the nation.
“We’re ready to do it. We want to do it,” Kelm-Helgen said. “We want to restore the confidence of the people.”
The Stadium Authority is not asking friends and family of Commissioners to pay for their tickets, but many have done so on their own. Almost all of the pay-backs came only after the free suite policy was made public.
Legislative Auditor Jim Nobles put the investigation on the fast track — he’s hoping to have it complete by mid-Janaury. Both the House and Senate say they’ll hold hearings when the legislature re-convenes in January.
Here are the full lists of each commissioners guests, and guests who paid the city back for their time in the suites: