Alumni board resolution supports campus stadium

by Brad Unangst

At its national board meeting Saturday, the University Alumni Association’s board unanimously passed a resolution it hopes University President Robert Bruininks and the Board of Regents will hear loud and clear.

“We want to be the first group to be able to step up and say – as a group at the University – that we believe (returning Gophers football) is the appropriate course of action for the University of Minnesota,” said association President-elect Jerry Noyce.

The resolution, which says the association “believes that it is in the best interest of the University community to bring Gophers football back on campus,” will be presented to University administration today.

While a resolution carries no governing power, the board’s vote comes days before a University deadline for reaching an agreement with the Minnesota Vikings on the shared use of a new football stadium on campus. The statement does not specifically address the proposed partnership or offer other plans for returning the Gophers to campus.

“It’s the University administration’s role to take a position on a partnership with the Vikings,” Noyce said.

As one of the first organizations to participate in a Gophers-Vikings stadium focus group weeks ago, the alumni group felt it was important to comment on the preliminary designs of the multi-million dollar project.

University officials say an agreement with the Vikings needs to be completed by Wednesday and could happen as early as Monday. Bruininks will decide if the project should go before the Board of Regents, which is expected to vote on the plan at its December meeting.

If a deal cannot be reached, University administrators should continue to look for alternative ways to bring the Gophers back to campus, the alumni group said.

Recent newspaper reports have said University officials are positioning to build a Gophers-only stadium if an agreement with the Vikings cannot be reached, but some officials have denied those claims.

Association members said the resolution should not be taken as support for a Gophers-only stadium and they hope it does not disrupt ongoing negotiations.

Association Executive Director Margaret Carlson said if the University administration realizes an on-campus partnership with the Vikings will not work, the alumni would be opposed to any partnership moving Gophers football farther from campus.

Other proposed sites have included the Minnesota State Fairgrounds, Blaine, Minn., and Shakopee, Minn., Carlson said.

“We may need to part ways is all that that says,” she said. “We’re still in favor of returning Gophers football to campus, even if it means two stadiums.”

The association’s board, which represents more than 58,000 paying members, said their resolution – combined with upcoming official statements from University students and staff – is meant to highlight the value of Gophers football to the campus.

Joshua Colburn, Minnesota Student Association president, said he expects his organization to vote on a similar resolution Tuesday. Graduate and Professional Student Assembly President Chris Frazier said they will be presenting a resolution in early December.

Some University community members, however, oppose the stadium. Charles Speaks, chairman of the Faculty Senate Finance and Planning Committee, has said his group does not support the Gophers-Vikings stadium.

“I believe the mission of the Vikings is incompatible with the mission of the University,” Speaks told The Minnesota Daily in October.

Paul Stein, an association member and former University law school dean, said the University lost its sense of community when the Gophers moved into the Metrodome in 1984.

Stein, who was the faculty athletic representative at the time of the move, said he supported the decision to leave campus but has since changed his mind.

“I’ve come to the conclusion that whether or not the decision was a correct one back at the time the move was made, that playing off campus is not acceptable for the University at the present time,” he said by phone at the meeting.

On-campus football would strengthen the faculty, student and community bonds within the University as well as its academic programs, Stein said.

The association’s resolution stands in sharp contrast with University neighborhood groups who oppose an NFL-style stadium in their community.

Most community members fear an NFL-sized stadium would increase the amount of noise, litter, traffic and parking problems in the area.

University officials who met with a number of community organizations said they are aware of their positions.

“When I go out into the community, nobody wants an NFL stadium on campus,” University Chief Financial Officer Richard Pfutzenreuter said.

The alumni association is a

nonprofit association and acts as the University’s Department of Alumni Relations. The association’s 2002 operating budget is $4.3 million, with 31 percent coming from the University.

Brad Unangst welcomes comments at [email protected]