State forecasts $700M deficit – additional report

Gov. Pawlenty said pro stadiums need more attention than a Gophers facility.

Than Tibbetts

The University’s uphill battle for an on-campus football stadium could have gotten a little steeper.

With state officials forecasting a $700 million deficit Wednesday, Gov. Tim Pawlenty said officials will be challenged to balance the budget at the upcoming legislative session.

But if stadium plans will be discussed, Pawlenty said more emphasis will be necessary to complete stadium plans for the Twins and Vikings.

An on-campus stadium would be easier to approve than a professional stadium, Pawlenty said, because the University is a public institution and it will raise a lot of the money.

“They’re the one team that can’t leave,” he said.

The University has proposed building a $222 million football stadium on the site of the Huron Boulevard Parking Complex. University officials have offered to finance 60 percent of the bill with the state picking up the rest.

University President Bob Bruininks told the Minnesota Student Association on Tuesday that the University will know within nine months if an on-campus stadium is possible.

After hearing the news of the deficit Wednesday, Bruininks said that although he believes the University has bipartisan support for the stadium, it needs to raise money for the project without detracting from the University’s educational needs.

Athletics Director Joel Maturi said it seems legislators understand why an on-campus stadium is necessary.

“I hope people understand that this is a 100-year project,” he said. “If it gets to be a too expensive a project … then I think we’ll be eating away from potential academic dollars.”

Maturi said the administration hopes to raise money for the stadium project that would have only been used for athletics.

He added that he doesn’t think the University will have to raise its entire 60 percent share within nine months.

“But if we’ve only got 10 (percent), then we might be in trouble,” Maturi said.

The Vikings, the Twins and the University advocated for new stadiums during the last legislative session, though no deals were approved.

– Kari Petrie contributed to this report.