- Associated Press - Monday, December 5, 2016

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) - Some University of Minnesota officials will now personally write checks for their tickets for attending Minnesota Vikings or soccer games in luxury suites at the Vikings’ new stadium, a newspaper reported Monday.

The suites are controlled by the Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority at U.S. Bank Stadium. University athletic director Mark Coyle and his wife were among those who attended, the Star Tribune (https://strib.mn/2h0sfix ) reported.

The university provided the names to the newspaper. In a statement, the university said the officials’ attendance was “clearly work-related,” but to avoid any appearance of impropriety, the officials will pay for their tickets. It’s unclear how much the officials will reimburse the stadium authority.

Authority chairwoman Michele Kelm-Helgen and executive director Ted Mondale say they use the suites for marketing purposes. Last week legislative auditor James Nobles said he’s investigating the use of the suites and hopes to have the investigation completed by January.

Coyle and his wife, deputy university athletic director John Cunningham and senior associate AD Tom McGinnis attended the Vikings’ inaugural regular season game against the Green Bay Packers on Sept. 18, the Star Tribune reported. University spokesman Evan Lapiska said the purpose was to work with Meet Minneapolis and Sports Minneapolis from the city’s convention bureau to “host staff members from the NCAA and observe stadium operations.” The stadium will host the NCAA’s 2019 Final Four.

Amy Phenix, chief of staff to university President Eric Kaler, and Beth Eull, deputy chief of staff for policy and initiatives, as well as their husbands, attended a Vikings game on Nov. 6 against the Detroit Lions, the newspaper said.

Lapiska said the two women attended the game “as representatives of the office of the president” while the university and the stadium authority “partner on a variety of event hosting bids.”

Last month the Star Tribune reported the stadium authority controls two lower concourse luxury suites at the $1.1 billion stadium. For Vikings games, the suites sell for $200,000 to $300,000 for the 10-game season.

Neither Kelm-Helgen nor Mondale have identified their guests aside from a dozen public officials who have reimbursed the state for game tickets, saying that releasing the names of business representatives could harm their outreach efforts. But both have said friends and family members also have used the suites, a practice they said they would suspend pending an investigation.

On Monday, stadium authority spokeswoman Jenn Hathaway said state law prohibits releasing the names of “marketing targets” and guests and “the University is a marketing target.”


Information from: Star Tribune, https://www.startribune.com

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