U plans its quest for more on-campus stadium funds

Than Tibbetts

It appears with TCF’s stadium sponsorship deal in place, University officials have their stadium train on the tracks.

But now, with money behind them, the quest continues at the State Legislature, in student forums and in negotiation rooms with University officials and possible contributors.

TCF’s cornerstone sponsorship, announced last week, and another $10 million gift reportedly in the works would put University officials halfway to their private fund-raising goal of $75 million.

But the pressure isn’t off, Athletics Director Joel Maturi said.

“With this out of the way, we have to engage more people to buy into what we’re trying to do,” he said.

Maturi said the University has a strategy to seek 11 corporate or private donors – to be referred to as the “Big Ten” – at four different levels of funding.

Representatives also continue working at the Legislature to lobby for stadium support.

A Gophers stadium bill has already passed one Senate committee. Another is expected to be heard in the House sometime in early April.

The University is asking the state to pay for 40 percent – $94 million – of the stadium’s estimated total cost.

University President Bob Bruininks told listeners at the TCF unveiling last week that bringing Gophers football back to campus by 2008 is an important priority.

A student group is working to promote the stadium project through education about stadium issues.

Ryan Frailich, a strategic communications junior and Goldy’s Groundbreaking Crew founder, said he formed the group to educate students about stadium issues.

The group’s next public forum is May 4. Maturi, University budget officer Brian Swanson and at least one legislator will be available to answer questions about the estimated $235 million project.

Although University officials have said no organized student opposition has appeared, there are students who don’t want to pay for an on-campus stadium.

The University is planning to assess a fee of up to $50 per semester to support the stadium construction. Officials said they estimate they will pay for $50 million of the stadium project with Student Services Fees.

Three Minnesota Student Association presidential candidate pairs list support for a Gophers on-campus stadium as one of their platforms.