Senator urges special session

Lora Pabst

State Senate Majority Leader Dean Johnson, DFL-Willmar, stressed Tuesday the importance of dealing with an on-campus Gophers stadium soon, preferably during a special session in the 2005 calendar year.

At a Capitol news conference, Johnson said he was encouraging Gov. Tim Pawlenty to “seriously take a look at calling a special session.”

“The stadium issues are not going to go away,” he said. “We need to be thoughtful and get the best deal.”

Johnson said the week of Thanksgiving is an ideal time for a special session because it would encourage legislators to stay on track and finish in time.

Johnson has been meeting with his constituents to discuss the issue of new stadiums, he said.

“The regular attitude of my constituents is, Let’s get this done,” he said.

The escalating costs of construction projects and the economic advantages of having new stadiums are two reasons Johnson wants to decide on a special session quickly.

He also acknowledged that alumni and donors have long awaited a commitment from the state.

University officials, alumni and students, along with Goldy Gopher, were also at the Capitol to deliver to Pawlenty’s office more than 3,000 signatures collected at the Minnesota State Fair in support of an on-campus Gophers stadium.

Joel Maturi, athletics director, Margaret Carlson, chief executive officer of the University Alumni Association and three members of student group Goldy’s Groundbreaking Crew wanted to emphasize the importance of calling a special session to discuss stadium issues.

Maturi said he wanted to visit the Capitol even though Pawlenty was not in his office Tuesday.

“It is symbolic for us to convey the importance of a special session,” Maturi said.

Carlson called alumni to action in a recent column for “Minnesota,” the alumni association’s magazine.

“The Legislature was very generous (to the University) during the regular session,” she said. “The issue is more that our moment is right now.”

It was important for legislators to see the presence of both students and alumni, she said.

“The two groups that are the most interested are current students and former students,” she said. “The students are with us today – they are 50,000 strong.”

Ryan Frailich, a Goldy’s Groundbreaking Crew officer, encouraged students to support an on-campus stadium by writing letters to their legislators.

“It’s so important to have a student presence and show there are a lot of students on campus who care, even though we know we’re not going to be here to see (a Gophers stadium),” he said.

Frailich said that even if people don’t enjoy football games, the stadium will benefit the whole University.