U officials listen to student voices in joint stadium talks

by Nathan Hall

The Minnesota Student Association met with University officials Tuesday afternoon to discuss the proposed joint Gophers-Vikings football stadium on campus.

University officials and MSA members disagreed over the current development plan, which maintains the University must “retain governance control of all aspects of stadium development and management.”

University spokespersons said the pitch would guarantee financial benefit while retaining a safe and healthy integration with the affected surrounding communities, but students say there are several issues that remain unaddressed.

“The way it’s set up now at the (Metrodome), we don’t pay anything to play there but we don’t make any money on it either,” Josh Colburn, a technology senior, said. “Other campuses are making substantial profits with stadiums, so I think it’s only logical that we do the same.”

Brian Swanson, a University’s Planning Department representative, said hosting football contests on campus rather than downtown could increase student body involvement and uphold sound business practices.

In July, Swanson, along with Vice President for University Relations Donna Peterson, sought out 13 different groups to discuss issues such as parking and public nuisance.

Swanson’s MSA report says the University hired consultants in late June, holding talks with nine integral public agencies and community groups about the stadium’s impact on their resources.

Many students said they were worried about what the future holds for the Gophers should the Vikings decide to leave the state, leaving the University out to dry.

“I think it’s fairly obvious that this contract is tying a lot of us on the ‘U,’ and therefore it’s possible that we don’t get other needed projects in the future like re-habs or whatever,” said Andrew Pomroy, a College of Liberal Arts junior.

“The important thing to consider here is that we don’t even know if the Legislature is going to even fund this yet,” Peterson said, adding that University officials have not yet had the opportunity to justify the new stadium to policymakers.

The state Legislature appropriated $500,000 for outside consultants to complete two documents: a memorandum of understanding and a stadium predesign proposal. With two weeks before the proposed deadline, neither is finished.

The memorandum is “a legal document that will address how the University and Vikings will collaborate on the design, construction, management and operation of a stadium,” according to the University’s presentation. The proposal is essentially a rough sketch of the desired “size, scope and cost of a Gophers-Vikings stadium,” Swanson said.

However, in the discussion of a joint stadium, some students said they wanted officials to consider the possibility of a new Gophers-only stadium.

“I really wonder if it might be possible for us to support a stadium by ourselves,” Judith Berning, a Carlson School of Management junior, said. “We haven’t really explored that option in all of this.”