Sports Facilities

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Lessons Learned: When Officials Don’t Set an Example

22 Mar, 2017

By: Mary Helen Sprecher
Minnesota Vikings Stadium Executive in Charge of Oversight Found to Have Misused Authority to Get Better Seats

File this one under “an illustration of irony:” a Minnesota Vikings arena executive in charge of oversight was found to have bumped herself up in line so that she could get better seats for herself, family and friends at the U.S. Bank Stadium.

Needless to say, she’s now a former executive.

According to an article in the Star-Tribune of Minneapolis, Michele Kelm-Helgen, as chair of the Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority (MSFA), the government agency overseeing U.S. Bank Stadium, jumped to the head of the line to buy front-row season tickets for Vikes games.

She also helped friends and family members buy the rights to nearby seats, before longtime Vikings season-ticket holders could claim them, records show.

Seats in the still-new 66,200-seat facility have been a prime commodity, and sold out quickly when they first went on sale. According to the Star-Tribune, Kelm-Helgen, along with her friends and family, occupy seats in rows 1 and 2 in the Medtronic Club, marketed as “the most exclusive and upscale” space providing the “ultimate football viewing experience.” Another friend holds seats 20-23 in row 3. The seats are on the 50-yard line.

The U.S. Bank Stadium opened in 2016. Prior to that, the team played at the Metrodome. According to policy, fans who had been season ticket holders were offered Vikings seat licenses in the new arena based on where they sat in the Metrodome in 2013. So, for example, a fan who had held a 50-yard-line seat at the Metrodome in 2013 would have had the first chance to buy a seat license for a similar seat at U.S. Bank Stadium.

Kelm-Helgen, according to records, did not have seats in the Metrodome and therefore would not have had advance notice when it came to obtaining a premium place anywhere in the stadium, much less in the Medtronic Club.

According to an article in Scout NFL Network, a month before seats went on sale to the public, an early sale for stakeholders in the stadium was opened March 5, 2014. On that date, despite being a governmental official and, as such, expected to be subject to the same policies afforded to the general public, Kelm-Helgen, family and friends purchased eight seat licenses in the Medtronic Club.

A spokesman for DFL Gov. Mark Dayton, who appointed Kelm-Helgen to lead the authority, said Dayton was “not involved in these discussions or decisions.” The governor said in a statement, “I am extremely disappointed in anyone using her or his public leadership position to obtain personal benefits or advantages.”

This isn’t the first time Kelm-Helgen has come under scrutiny for misuse of stadium facilities. According to Scout NFL Network, the beleaguered official originally became headline news last fall when it was reported that a pair of suites used by the MSFA for the intent of marketing U.S. Bank Stadium for other events and tickets were instead diverted to family, friends and political allies.

Kelm-Helgen resigned under pressure in February as chairwoman of the Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority. 

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