I was surprised by the city’s selection of Mortenson Construction of Minnesota and Hampton Enterprises to manage construction of a $168 million arena.
I figured the Turner-Sampson team was the leading contender, just because Sampson got in on the ground floor from the very beginning, when building a new arena was little more than a dream.
Sampson had a representative on many arena committees and task forces over the years, so when Sampson teamed up with Turner Construction of New York, I figured they would win the job. And in fact, they got the highest score of the four teams and were recommended by the city selection committee. But the mayor had veto power, and selected Mortenson. (See the scorecard CMR Rating Sheet.)
Granted, you have to get invited to get in that early — the arena architect ultimately won the designing job after working pro bono for the city for years — but that also seems unfair to other companies.
So it was good to see that the fix was not in, so to speak.
Mortenson certainly went all out to get the job. They hired lobbyists and assembled a team of representatives of Mortenson and Hampton to meet with local officials.
Heck, they even called me up — when I was still the Journal Star’s arena reporter — and asked for a meeting. Five people showed up and gave their spiel on why Mortenson would be the best company to do the job. And Mortenson’s track record was impressive.
Meanwhile, some of the other companies vying for the job were not even willing to be interviewed about their qualifications — not that giving press interviews has anything to do with their ability to get an arena built on time and on budget. But I was told by people on the arena selection committee that Mortenson was out wining and dining and meeting with everyone connected with the project.
Is that what won it for them? I doubt it. Their emphasis on getting projects done on time and on (or under) budget was probably the key (as indicated by the mayor), so now let’s watch and see if they can deliver.