Attempts to fund new stadium try to make up for leaving Memorial

Here they are again: a sports team wanting a new facility. The twist this time is that it is not only a professional, private business demanding a stadium. This time it is also the Gophers football team.

While they will find new ways to make people feel guilty for not supporting a new Gophers stadium, there are many guilt-free reasons to oppose a stadium, many of which have no reasonable answer from the pro-stadium crowd or the administration.

The one that got away

Not very long ago, the Gophers football team had a stadium that was everything they are asking for now. It was on campus. It was an open-air stadium. It had nostalgia and a rich history – something that cannot be bought with a new stadium. Life is filled with regrets; for none of them do people expect to get a TiVo moment – that is, a moment to simply rewind and record over the mistake.

We all must learn to live with those mistakes. What the Gophers are trying to do is to undo the mistake of leaving Memorial Stadium nearly two decades ago. They are trying to undo the mistake in judgment of demolishing a stadium wonderfully filled with tradition. They are trying to undo those mistakes at the cost of University students and taxpayers.

Fun with funding

Keep in mind that the University goes to the Legislature every year with its pockets turned inside out. The repeated message is that there is not enough money for the regents to do all that is “necessary.” Among these necessary projects are renovations, flower beds at every corner, unneeded remodeling and excessive administrator salaries. Now, while making this woe-is-me argument annually, the University is planning on building a completely unnecessary building for extracurricular activities.

While many on-campus groups seem to forget, there is a primary mission for the University: education. The simple fact also remains that the payment of the stadium should be voluntary because its tenant is not actually necessary for education. Therefore, students should not pay a dime toward the stadium through tuition or through the corrupt Student Services Fees system. Instead, alumni should be asked to voluntarily contribute (not contribute through dues), and other benefactors would be appreciated. Beyond that, revenues should be from ticket and concession sales.

On principle alone, the stadium idea should die. But this is the University, and we can watch any arm of the campus to see that principle means little (see any social science syllabus) or is jettisoned altogether (see the entire student fees process). So, because principle means nothing in Gopher-land, we need to be against the stadium.

Before the grumbling pro-stadium people say it, let me address it. Instead of claiming that the football program brings in a net gain of money for the University, let us see it in publicly released detailed balance statements. Otherwise, it is a claim that is unsubstantiated, and we should continue with the idea that the football program barely pays for itself.

Vikings affect Gophers

It is almost certain that the Vikings will not be in the Metrodome much longer than their lease obligates them. They will either shamefully get a new stadium or Red McCombs will move the team away. Either way, there is a significant portion of the lease the Gophers would have to pay for. This means the expenses the Gophers football team will realize will increase. This leaves two things to be considered.

First, this increase in expenses will be covered by either an increase in revenues (higher ticket prices) or by saddling it on students trying to get an education. The fallacy is that these expenses are much different from the increase in expenses the team would realize with a new stadium. New expenses will occur (unless the team is dissolved) with or without a new stadium. There is no need to build a stadium on the grounds of avoiding lease payments at the Metrodome.

Everyone seems to have forgotten the second angle: How will the increase in spending alter the Title IX balance? What other men’s programs will have to be cut to keep the University in Title IX compliance?

No matter how you cut it, there is not a compelling reason to build a new Gophers stadium. It would be improper to saddle the costs on the entire student body. It will have Title IX ramifications. It is not directly beneficial (and arguably not beneficial at all) to the primary function of the University: education.

Anthony Reel is a political science senior. Send comments to [email protected]