Thursday, May 10, 2012

Full Speed Ahead for the Event Center

I wonder if all those people who voted yes on the Event Center have remained engaged by watching the monthly EC updates presentation to the City Council. Once the vote was done, everyone has probably gone back to their daily lives and forgotten all about this big project. That's too bad because the really important details surrounding this project like design and cost are the meat and potatoes of the project and those details are beginning to come forward and will continue to be at the forefront until completion in Fall, 2014.

The May 8th Event Center Update presentation was very interesting. The design work is done and now Mortenson will be working on the cost estimate, bringing contractors on board, establishing the guaranteed maximum price, understanding the scope of the project and start moving forward with construction. They will be issuing 4 additional bid packages parallel to this action:
  • Bid Package 2 for site and foundation will go out in June.
  • Bid Package 3 for structural steel will go out in August.
  • Bid Package 4 for enclosure on the building, roofing and interior framing of the building will go out in November.
  • Bid Package 5 wrapping up all the interior of the building will go out the end of this year.
Construction will actually begin in July of this year and will be completed in Fall 2014.

Mortensen presented the project construction progress in a 4D format. It was an excellent way to communicate to the public how construction will progress over the next year and a half. I encourage everyone to go to the city's website and watch the 4D presentation. It is a fascinating way to present the rising of the Event Center from a dirt base.

A couple of interesting points came up after the presentation. Councilor Karsky asked where the staging area for this massive project was going to be on the construction site for materials, equipment, contractors, etc. The response was that this is a big building for a small site and that it is an extremely tight site.

Contractors are going to have to find off site storage for their materials and equipment and only bring materials they need for a given week to the site because there isn't room on site to store their supplies. Can you imagine constructing this big of a project and not having any staging room for materials, supplies and equipment on site ? Where are the off sites going to be and how far away? And at what additional hidden cost in their bids because of this "extremely tight site?" No staging area on site for materials, supplies and equipment is astounding news.

Councilor Jamison asked now that Mortenson was working on the cost estimate for the construction based on the design with the knowledge of the $115 million parameter, who will determine what to do if the cost estimate  comes in higher than $115 million. Who will determine what will have to be removed or changed in order to stay within the $115 million?  Mortensen stated that some decisions are engineering decisions or construction decisions that they make every day in projects like this.

However, he said there will be a handful of value decisions that the city will have to make regarding do we do this alternate that might increase the aesthetics or do this alternate that will increase revenues generated, improve operational efficiencies, etc. It will be Mortenson's job and the architect's job to give the city the information in order to make an informed decision and the city's core team will make those decisions.

So who is the city's core team on this project - the ones who will make these kinds of  alternate decisions? It was kind of like pulling teeth to get that information out. PW Director Cotter states that through the design phase, they have already been working on developing additional alternates.

I guess its a good thing that they are planning on cost overruns during the design phase. Cotter kind of went around the horn about who would be making the decision and when pressed by Jamison stated the core team was made up of himself, Director Cooper, City Attorney Pfeifle, Director Smith, DirectorTurbak, the Mayor, Assistant Attorney Leonard and Special Projects Manager Siemonsma. Cotter says he will keep the Council informed as to what these additional alternatives might be. This will be interesting information in future event center updates.

Council Entenman, the good administration foot soldier that he is, chimed in saying "the bottom line is we the city council and the voters, we approved $115 million and we will not exceed that according to this project, is that not correct?" Cotter responded, " That's right, the way it was wrote using public funds, is the $115 million and that's our budget at this point." At this point, huh?

It's inevitable that the core team will have to make some value decisions regarding this project. In every big project, there are cost overruns, unexpected site and/construction problems, cost estimates that come in over budget, whatever. Items and/or designs will have be altered or changed or cut out.

The key to the success of the construction of the Event Center and keeping the public trust is transparency. This core team, which I am sure is headed by the mayor and not led by Cotter, needs to make a commitment to the city council and the public that they will communicate these alternate matters in their monthly updates and communicate their decisions and the reason why these alternates were necessary.

I'd like to know the $115 million is going to be enough to build the EC as designed or what has to be changed in order to stay within the $115 million budget.  Transparency, please, because you would have to have your head in the sand if you think this project is going to come in under budget or right at budget without making some value decisions regarding alternates.


  1. There's always a negative and a positive way to look at information and I'm going to choose the positive. We know who's responsible for keeping this project in budget now. They've taken responsibility for this just like the Mayor took responsibility for the railroad getting moved away from the City Council. Even if you don't like who's in charge of something at least we know who's in charge so we can hold them responsible if something goes wrong and applaud them if they do it right. With responsibility comes accountability. They're responsible and we're there to keep them accountable.

    OH yeah, when do we start hearing about all the development that's going up around the new arena? I heard about another new hotel recently...downtown. Yeah, I'm bitter.

  2. Wondering when the mayor is going to drop the parking ramp expense on us? I don't see how you can build an events center in this tight of a space and not build a parking ramp? Add the ramp to the $180 million and were over $200 million.

  3. Andy, For goodness sake LET IT GO !!!

    1. For goodness sake use your real name or don't talk to me. I was half joking and I'm not gonna "let it go". It was the biggest financial mistake our city has ever made. I'm entitled to my opinion. Especially when I am willing to put my name on it.

  4. For goodness sake. Use your real name or stop talking to me.

  5. Many of us who watch city politics closely have not gone back to our daily lives and forgotten all about this big project....

    Then again, where were those thousands of voters who participated in the EC election when we decided in April who is going to help lead our city for the next four years............!!!!!

    On the subject of the EC, it would be rather short-sighted to think that citizens will only need to watch this process during the two year construction phase. Like it or not, we have ALL made a 22 year commitment to this project!

    I was at the EC update, and I thought one of the most interesting comments made was by Director Cotter.

    "That's right, the way it was wrote using public funds, is the $115 million, and that's our budget at this point."

    What caught my attention about this statement was:

    "the way it was wrote using public funds, is the $115 million....."

    If you read between the lines, I think what he is suggesting is that they would like to use private dollars from the naming rights for the capital costs. This is NOT what was sold to the voters. All pre-election conversation from Mike and his team indicated that revenue from the naming rights would go towards the operating costs.

    Why not instead, create an endowment to provide for future operating deficits?

    Also, a "core city team" consisting of the Mayor, five Directors, an assistant city attorney and special projects manager will make the add/alternate decisions. Is there not a glaring omission here!!....why are there not several members of the Council included on this decision team???

  6. I'm sure Entenman will gladly store materials on his site for a nominal fee, since storage is about the only thing that makes any money in that neighborhood. Perhaps he'll introduce a resolution for that.

  7. CR, are you going to present any of those ideas in public comment. That's good stuff.