U stadium issue stalls at State Legislature

University officials said they want the state to pick up $94 million of the cost.

Than Tibbetts

Before brick-red walls for an on-campus stadium can rise up over the University, officials might have to contend with the rising cost of bricks.

State lawmakers adjourned from their special session last week, leaving the stadium issue unresolved at the Legislature and some University officials worried about the implications.

Tom Mason, Gov. Tim Pawlenty’s senior adviser, said Pawlenty put the chances of calling a second special session at 40 percent.

Although Mason said Pawlenty has been a fan of the Gophers project, he said stadium issues would need to be agreed upon before the governor would call lawmakers back to the Capitol.

“(A special session) won’t become a free-for-all,” Mason said. “There’s still a lot of people the governor needs to talk to.”

University officials said they want the state to pick up $94 million, or 40 percent, of the stadium’s $235 million projected cost. They hoped to have the money passed during the special session.

Richard Pfutzenreuter, the University’s chief financial officer, said University officials are taking a hard look at whether parts of the stadium project need to be delayed because of the lack of state action and what effects any delays would have.

A delay could cost the University money in several ways: the cost of steel and concrete would likely rise with inflation, the loss of parking and ticket revenues, or even the loss of the $35-million-naming-rights deal with TCF, which expires Dec. 31.

Pfutzenreuter said that if the cost projections increase, University officials might ask the state to pay a larger portion of the increase. This would be the second increase in the cost projection since the original $222 million estimate was updated in December.

Athletics Director Joel Maturi said his first gut reaction was that the University should not have to pay for any increase, though he would respect the position the University’s leadership takes.

“We didn’t do anything wrong here,” he said. “Every dollar’s a dollar.”

Officials said early estimates indicate the increases could be approximately 5 percent to 8 percent, putting the total cost in the neighborhood of $250 million, though actual increases would depend on when state lawmakers take action.

Maturi said he talked with other University officials about the possibility of delaying the opening date.

“There has not been a final decision,” he said. “We’re going to have to commit some real dollars if we’re going to go ahead with the 2008 opening.”

He said the lack of a state commitment is making it challenging to raise money for the project.

University officials said they are calculating the effects of delay and will give their recommendations to University President Bob Bruininks, who has the final say in the matter.