U balks as state officials renew push for shared stadium

Patricia Drey

Members of the governor’s Stadium Screening Committee encouraged the University on Tuesday to reconsider a joint stadium with the Vikings, after officials presented their vision of a Gophers-only field at the Capitol.

Committee members said they doubted state support for two football stadiums would be financially feasible.

“I really don’t believe we’re going to get two stadiums done,” committee member Tom Rosen said. “Can you guys go back to the table?”

But University chief financial officer Richard Pfutzenreuter said the institution plans to seek private dollars to cover the majority of expenses.

The state should not worry about the proposed stadium’s $222 million price tag, he said.

A large chunk of the dollars could come from private sources, Pfutzenreuter said, and the University could take on debt or ask for state funding to cover the rest.

“If you gave us six or seven million recurring, I’ll issue the debt,” he said. “It’s not about $222 million on a stadium.”

University officials recently entertained a $35 million proposed donation from South Dakota banker T. Denny Sanford. But negotiations ceased after the two sides failed to reach an agreement, officials said.

Student fees could also support for the project, Pfutzenreuter said.

Although the University is not seeking state dollars for a stadium, it will not close the door on the option in the future, University Athletics Director Joel Maturi said.

The institution hopes to participate in any future stadium funding discussions at the Capitol, he said.

Committee member and state Sen. Dean Johnson, DFL-Willmar, said a joint effort would create a win-win situation for the University and the Vikings.

They could both save money if they worked together, he said.

But the Vikings have different goals for a stadium, Pfutzenreuter said. They are looking for a major entertainment development, he said, and the Gophers envision a more modest stadium.

Not all committee members directly opposed a Gophers-only facility. Committee member and state Sen. Steve Kelley, DFL-Hopkins, cited traffic problems as a major concern if the two teams shared an on-campus stadium.

“I was a supporter of a joint-use stadium,” he said. “I think I’m getting over that.”