Bill threatens stadium deal

Megan Kadrmas

If the future of the proposed on-campus football stadium already was unclear, it became even cloudier this week.

State Sen. Larry Pogemiller, DFL-Minneapolis, is the author of a Senate bill that would prohibit the University from using certain types of fundraising for the stadium.

If passed, Pogemiller’s bill – SF2460 – would prevent any corporate naming deals and prohibit the University from paying for the building with student fees.

The University is slated to contribute 60 percent of the estimated $250 million needed to construct the stadium. Some of this money might come from an annual student fee of $100.

The largest corporate sponsor is TCF Bank, a Minnesota company that plans to give $35 million over 25 years in exchange for naming rights to the stadium. The proposed stadium name is “TCF Bank Stadium.”

“I think that the community would like to see the stadium named after a Gopher football or campus tradition,” Pogemiller said.

State Rep. Phyllis Kahn, DFL-Minneapolis, agreed.

“The idea of commercial names on University institutions is kind of offensive,” Kahn said.

Worries abound over the implications of this bill beyond the stadium, said University Athletics Director Joel Maturi. “The University is concerned that (business or private) naming rights would not be allowed for any of the ‘U’s’ building projects,” Maturi said.

TCF Bank, meanwhile, realizes the Legislature has the power to do what it will but hopes the original stadium plan will remain, said spokesman Jason Korstange.

“We stand with the University and we believe in the (original naming rights) proposal. We are happy to fulfill that original proposal and look forward to doing so,” Korstange said.

Another University concern is how the extra money will be raised if the bill succeeds. Richard Pfutzenreuter, University chief financial officer, estimated the loss from student fees alone would amount to $4 million a year over 25 years.

“If there isn’t more state money provided to cover what is lost (through the bill), we won’t be able to build (the stadium),” Pfutzenreuter said.

Pogemiller agreed and said that he hoped to replace the lost funds with state money.

Representatives from Minnesota Student Association met with Pogemiller Tuesday morning to discuss the bill. MSA supports the bill for various reasons, MSA President Emily Serafy Cox said.

“The general reason we support the bill is because we are committed to keeping student costs low,” Serafy Cox said.

Undergraduate tuition has increased 89 percent since 2001, raising concern both at the Capitol and at the University.

“We, quite frankly, aren’t excited about asking the students for more money. However, funding projects through student fees isn’t new at the University,” Maturi said.

Such past projects have included the renovation of Coffman Union, which partially was funded through an increase in student fees.

Students on campus this year would not have to pay this fee. However, because the stadium is planned to open in 2009, next year’s incoming first-year students could be subject to a fee, according to Maturi.

Serafy Cox said MSA did not have an opinion about the naming rights part of the bill.

Perhaps a bigger problem, according to Pfutzenreuter, is the message that the bill sends to prospective University donors.

“We are concerned that the Legislature’s stepping in will send a chilling wind through the donor community,” he said.

Without donor support, it is hard to accomplish any large building or renovation project at the University, Maturi said.

“(Naming rights deals) are very common today, all around the country. It’s how major facilities are built today.”