Capitol concurs on stadium talks

by Lora Pabst

Gov. Tim Pawlenty and state legislative leaders agree on one discussion point for a potential special session this fall: an on-campus Gophers stadium.

Pawlenty met Thursday afternoon with House Speaker Steve Sviggum, R-Kenyon; State Senate Majority Leader Dean Johnson, DFL-Willmar; Senate Minority Leader Dick Day, R-Owatonna; and House Minority Leader Matt Entenza, DFL-St. Paul, after they decided not to order from his menu of special session talking points earlier this week.

“It became clear that the one issue there seems to be consensus on is a Gophers stadium,” Pawlenty said at a news conference.

He said the Gophers stadium could be a stand-alone issue in a one-day special session.

Johnson said the group spent a considerable amount of time during the 90-minute meeting discussing an on-campus Gophers stadium.

“A Gophers stadium has the best opportunity of a special session,” he said.

The leaders discussed the impact legislative approval for an on-campus stadium would have on the Gophers win-loss record, recruiting, sponsorships and contributions, Johnson said.

Rising construction costs, increasing interest rates and financial contributions with deadlines for approval are reasons a Gophers stadium should be addressed quickly, Johnson said.

At the end of September, University officials announced that inflation will push the cost of a new Gophers stadium from $235 million to $248 million because it would open in 2009, a year later than previously estimated.

Sviggum and Entenza agreed with Johnson and Pawlenty that the Gophers stadium has the most support among caucuses.

The legislative leaders plan to return to their caucuses and talk with members about a special session. They said they will get back to Pawlenty by next week.

“We can’t keep having it be a moving target,” Pawlenty said.

He said he would like to make an announcement by the middle of next week on whether there will be a special session.

University officials have waited for a decision from the governor for months.

“We’re delighted that the Legislature and the governor seem to agree that a Gophers stadium is something that should pass,” said Athletics Director Joel Maturi.