U plan draws unique support

Some activists who oppose other stadiums still back a Gophers facility.

Organizers of some groups opposed to public funding for professional sports stadiums are receptive to state support for an on-campus Gophers-only stadium.

Publicly financed stadiums have become a highly debated topic in Minnesota, with various interest groups forming on each side of the issue.

The subject has returned to the forefront this year with a bill in the Legislature to fund stadiums for the Twins, Vikings and Gophers.

Ricky Rask, a retired minister, started “Fund Kids First” in 1997 in an effort to block a Twins ballpark bill.

The state should increase education and housing spending instead of building stadiums for billionaire-owned professional teams, Rask said.

“The money they were talking about using for a stadium was being, in my opinion, taken away from the people who really need it,” she said.

Rask said building professional stadiums is fine, as long as public money is not used.

Funding for a Gophers football stadium is another matter. Rask, who attended the University, said she is more supportive of its stadium drive.

“I have far less problems with that because at least (the University is) willing to participate in the process,” she said. “They’re willing to participate in financing it.”

“Say It Ain’t So, Joe” is another organization against public funding, particularly for a Twins stadium in St. Paul.

The public should have to vote on public funding for stadiums, organizer Pat Hill said.

A stadium bill calling for professional teams to pay one-third and state and local governments to cover the rest of their respective stadiums is one of the worst stadium bills Hill said he has ever seen.

Like Rask, Hill is more sympathetic to public financing for a Gophers stadium.

Hill said the Gophers should have stayed in Memorial Stadium instead of moving to the Metrodome.

“I agree, and I always did agree, that the proper location for a University of Minnesota facility is on campus,” Hill said.

A plan Sen. Geoff Michel, R-Edina, proposed, calling for a 75 percent contribution from the University and 25 percent from the state, is worth looking at, Hill said.

“I think something along those lines is the right course,” he said.

Dan Dobson, founder of Financial Accountability for New Stadiums, said he is “totally opposed” to using public money for stadiums, but said he also supports a Gophers stadium.

“The Gophers, I would certainly be a lot more sympathetic toward,” Dobson said. “It’s a lot easier to make an argument for stadium funding for the Gophers than for the Vikings and the Twins.”

Bruce Lambrecht, president of Twinsville, a lobbying group formed by those who own

the land for a proposed Twins stadium site in Minneapolis, said the antistadium funding groups have had success coordinating opposition to the

stadiums.

Lambrecht said he hopes a Twins bill will pass this year. He said he also supports the University, but does not know enough about the Gophers stadium bill to back it.