Gophers need stadium priority

Once upon a time, a Roman emperor, faced with the problem of keeping a population content with its lot, came up with what is perhaps one of the most effective forms of social control in history. Give the people bread and entertainment and they will be happy. The result? The Coliseum and its progeny, built in every major Roman town in the empire.

Today, however, people pay for entrance to the new coliseums, the sports complexes of the 20th and 21st centuries, and the bread is now wrapped around substandard meat products. However, some students of sports and society claim the result is the same: pacification of the masses.

The buzz in the Twin Cities these days is all about new stadiums. Three teams, the Twins, the Vikings and the Gophers, want a new field. The Legislature isn’t going to build three multimillion dollar structures. So the time has come for compromise, and it’s likely the Twins will be stuck in the Metrodome as the Vikings and Gophers put up a new joint stadium on the Minneapolis campus.

However, there are problems with this scenario, as with any other, and the University continually looks like the underdog. The Vikings need a giant stadium with 21st century amenities, a retractable roof, luxury boxes, a parking complex, next-generation turf and more. The Gophers basically need a good old collegiate oval with bleacher seats and a grass field. While the idea of playing football in an NFL stadium seems like fun, the Gophers crowd has spent years swallowed up in the vast expanse of the Metrodome. How much worse will this be in a bigger stadium?

Moreover, college stadiums are named after alumni, not corporations. Despite partitions to make the feel of the stadium more “intimate,” the stadium won’t be able to hide the fact it was built for the NFL, not the Gophers. If the Vikings move in 10 years, will the University be left with a shell of a stadium that can’t be fully utilized and one that may no longer turn a profit? What happens to traffic on the weekends, and will students coming to campus to study have to pay $30 to park at event rates? How will the loss of so many East Bank parking spaces be recovered? Will there be an increase in crime and a decrease in property values as is typical around an urban stadium?

These questions are more than hypothetical, and while no one doubts the need for a new place for the Gophers to play so football will again be a revenue sport for the University, compromise must not ruin our chance. It would be nice, if students are to be pacified with sports, to see those games in a Gophers stadium, not a Vikings stadium. But while the University and the Vikings plow forward with their plans, students must not be pacified at the mere thought of a shiny new stadium. Just because it will be located on campus and just because the Gophers will play there doesn’t mean it will be a Gophers stadium.