Gophers get chunk of parking revenue

Andrew Krammer

When Gophers fans park around TCF Bank Stadium on Saturdays, who should get the money — athletics or the University of Minnesota’s Parking and Transportation Services?

That debate over parking revenue from campus events that bring cars to University-owned parking lots is raging at the University and on other campuses across the country.

The University’s athletics department will save about $235,000 in its budget because of an agreement it made with PTS this year, said Tom McGinnis, associate athletics director for finance.

The Gophers will bring in about $146,000 this year from parking passes for football, men’s basketball and hockey games. Athletics will receive $15 per parking pass sold for the three revenue sports.

The University will also cut back on about $89,000 in game-day parking expenses.

Former athletics director Joel Maturi said this is the first time Gophers athletics has received parking revenue.

Maturi had argued for parking revenue to go to athletics for nearly a decade, but he said the argument didn’t gain traction until TCF Bank Stadium brought football back to campus.

Prior to the inaugural 2009 season, PTS and athletics came to an agreement to sell parking passes for football that are designated for specific lots. In addition to not receiving parking revenue, athletics had to pay for processing and selling these passes.

Maturi said his department was also in charge of lot maintenance for football games.

“All the [football] setup, cleanup, we were paying, and we weren’t getting the revenue,” Maturi said. “That didn’t make a lot of sense to me.”

PTS provided $13 million for the new stadium, and Maturi said it was even harder to argue for a share of the revenue in the stadium’s first years of operation.

“I’ve never been a yeller or screamer about it,” Maturi said. “I was very thankful for their contribution.”

Bob Baker, the University’s executive director of parking and transportation services, said there are just as many financial models for the distribution of parking money as there are schools that use parking lots.

“It’s simply been one of those evolutionary situations where everybody, athletics or anyone else, would love to get their hands on parking revenue,” Baker said.

Maturi realizes PTS has lost money because athletics has pushed for more, but McGinnis said the department isn’t pushing for more now.

McGinnis said University athletics will continue to work with PTS to find sources of revenue because “our department feels bringing those events to campus provides an opportunity to collect parking revenue.”

Baker said he runs a business like any other and PTS needs to support itself just like athletics is trying to do.

“It’s not like we’re sitting on a pile of gold over here. We’re paying our costs and keeping our prices in line with the market — if not below,” Baker said.

Maturi said he believes parking revenue would be enough to make Gophers athletics financially self-sufficient.

“In our first year with football on campus, we wrote [PTS] a check for over $1 million,” Maturi said. “That was just for football and just for the parking passes. It didn’t include daily parking.”

The Gophers are getting $1.6 million from the University’s central fund this year to break even, and Maturi said there’s “no question” parking revenue would be enough to put athletics over the hump.

Baker countered that PTS hasn’t raised its daily or contract parking rates in four years solely because of TCF Bank Stadium.

To Baker, the debate of who should receive parking money resembles the age-old question of the chicken and the egg.

“The idea of what came first, the activity or the parking — that debate will go on forever,” Baker said.