U area awaits stadium spirit

Courtney Lewis

The sound of bands marching into the stadium, the sight of maroon-and-gold-clad fans cheering in the stands and the smell of tailgaters grilling outside all converged to help Stadium Village live up to its name.

With Vikings football games bringing in an average attendance of 64,168 people and Gophers attendance averaging 43,485, a stadium on campus would bring more patrons for local businesses and a possibility of increased challenges, said University police Capt. Steve Johnson.

University President Mark Yudof said having an on-campus stadium would help increase community spirit.

“There’s substantial pride, but I think it will help,” Yudof said.

While legislators debate placing a shared Gophers/Vikings stadium on campus, businesses and student groups are preparing for its potential impact.

Darrel LeBarron, University alumnus and director of planning at Station Nineteen Architects – housed next to the proposed stadium site – said bringing the stadium back to campus would be beneficial for the community.

“There’s a tooth missing from the smile here on campus,” LeBarron said.

He said he thinks the Huron Boulevard lot location is ideal for the new stadium because of its surroundings.

“With the strong collection of buildings in the athletic venue, it would be a completion of the puzzle,” he said.

Until 1982, fans and players gathered at Memorial Stadium – formerly located where the Gateway alumni center now sits – across the street from Station Nineteen Architects. LeBarron said its demolition was like taking the soul out of the University.

The old stadium didn’t hinder business at Station Nineteen Architects, and LeBarron said he doesn’t expect the future stadium to harm business.

“The area is dead as a doornail on the weekends,” LeBarron said. “(The stadium) couldn’t be in a better, quieter place.”

The site plan for the stadium would encompass the Huron Boulevard parking complex and dissolve Huron Boulevard. LeBarron is concerned the plan would encroach on his property.

With no intention to sell, Lebarron said he finds the building – built in 1893 – and its location ideal for his business. He said he hopes the city would keep the historical building in place, and he’d like to be included in future planning.

“I’m really excited about the idea,” said LeBarron, who has offered his support to the Kansas City architects working on the project. “It’s a real good addition to the campus and a good partnership.”

Nate Rantala, manager and bartender since 1999 at Stub and Herb’s, said the Huron lot placement of the stadium would encourage the establishment to expand its facilities.

Current capacity for Stub and Herb’s is 375 people, but Rantala said they would think about adding another level or a rooftop patio to accommodate customers.

“(The stadium’s) great for business,” Rantala said. “We welcome it and look forward to it.”

‘The devil is in the details’

Johnson said hiring more staff would help ease the burden that increased traffic could cause.

Rantala said traffic has always been bad after basketball and hockey games, so he is not as concerned about future congestion.

“It’s going to be a lot busier,” he said. “But overall, I think the positive aspects outweigh the negative.”

Dan McGrath, Progressive Minnesota executive director, said any stadium that uses taxpayer money is a bad idea.

“In the end, it’s all about priority,” McGrath said. “A stadium in not a good use of public money.”

Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak said he is focused on the Twins stadium and that “building a new stadium for the Vikings is not a priority right now.”

Michael McLaughlin, consultant for the Stadium Village Commercial Association, said SVCA would welcome a stadium but would like to see several issues addressed.

“Parking, transportation, additional food vendors and extra taxes are all things that concern the merchants,” McLaughlin said.

McLaughlin said there has been discussion among merchants, but without concrete plans SVCA can’t move forward to address their concerns.

“If it were to happen, it would create added exposure, enhanced customer base and more pedestrian traffic, all benefiting Stadium Village,” McLaughlin said.

Bringing the stadium back to campus would serve as a great recruitment tool for the greek system, said Mike Kalin, a Delta Tau Delta member.

“A lot of people complain that the ‘U’ is missing school spirit,” Kalin said.

He also said he felt alumni would be more inclined to come back to campus.

Yudof said a stadium could add substantial revenue to the University’s athletics departments, but the exact number is based on assumptions.

“It’s a risky projection,” Yudof said. “It’s not something we’d bet the ranch on.”

Yudof intends to stay at the Metrodome through the end of the Gophers’ lease.

“The control is with the Legislature and the governor,” Yudof said. “The devil is in the details.”

University officials have said they have positioned themselves at arm’s length, leaving the initiative with the Vikings.

Sue Jeffers, owner of Stub and Herb’s, fondly remembers the days of football on campus and hopes the stadium will be built.

“Bring it on,” she said.

Courtney Lewis welcomes comments at [email protected]com Elizabeth Putnam welcomes comments at [email protected]