By Mike Kaszuba
On the day after the Minnesota Vikings played the team’s inaugural game in the new US Bank Stadium, a top stadium official signed an agreement to have the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) place its own transmitting antennas inside the $1.1 billion structure.
The agreement calls for the FBI to install four VHF unity gain antennas in the 66,000-seat stadium in downtown Minneapolis as part of a year-long license that begins October 1st. It also allows the FBI to extend the license through nine one-year options.
Antennas to be added to facilitate communication
In an interview with Public Record Media (PRM), a St. Paul non-profit, FBI spokesman Kyle Loven said the antennas were being installed to make it easier for FBI agents to communicate with each other inside US Bank Stadium. According to Loven, the antennas were not aimed at enabling the FBI to monitor individual cell phone calls.
“Typically, these types of communications are for special events at the stadium – the Super Bowl is obviously upcoming – [and], clearly, that communication equipment will be used during that event,” Loven said. “There’s nothing to hide.”
The Vikings’ new stadium, built with $498 million in public subsidies, will be the site of the National Football League’s Super Bowl in February 2018.
Loven said that he was unsure whether the FBI had similar antenna systems in place in other large stadiums in Minnesota, and also said it was unclear how often the FBI would be using the antennas at US Bank Stadium. “I don’t want to get into what is characterized as a ‘special event,’ “he added. “I know, for certain, we play a role in each and every Super Bowl around the country, regardless of venue.”
Loven said that the FBI had a security role at Major League Baseball’s All-Star Game, which was played at Target Field in downtown Minneapolis in 2014. “That’s the last high-profile, major event that I can recall that we were a part of here in town,” Loven stated.
Ensuring clear reception
Jennifer Hathaway, a spokesperson for the Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority [MSFA], the public entity that owns the stadium, said the antennas ensure “that FBI radios have clear reception in the lowest levels of the stadium, including loading dock area, during major events in the stadium.”
Documents provided to PRM stated that a six-foot-tall rack for the FBI’s radio equipment would be furnished and that the FBI’s radio frequencies “have yet to be assigned but once assigned, will be coordinated with the Minnesota Sports [Facilities] Authority and the National Football League.”
A 46-page license agreement between the FBI and the stadium’s owners provides few details on the reason for the antennas. The agreement mentions “monthly license fees” to be paid by the FBI, but does not state an amount. It does, however, state that the FBI’s ability to continue the license depends on Congressional funding “needed to cover this agreement.”
The agreement also states that the four whip antennas, each measuring 4.5 feet, would be mounted on railings, and because of their location in the stadium would stand 270 feet above ground level.
Hathaway said that the agreement has been awaiting a final signature from the FBI. The agreement was signed on behalf of the MSFA by Ted Mondale, the organization’s executive director.
Hathaway said that she did not know whether other large stadiums have similar FBI antenna license agreements. “You’d have to ask other stadiums if they have FBI antennas,” she wrote in an e-mail.
The FBI’s Loven added: “It wouldn’t be uncommon to have similar arrangements for venues around the country where they host high-profile events.”