U rejects initial joint stadium proposal from Vikings

Paul Sand

Just minutes after naming interim University President Robert Bruininks the sole finalist in the University’s presidential search, the Board of Regents discussed another pressing issue – the proposed Gophers-Vikings on-campus football stadium.

In a presentation to the regents, University General Counsel Mark Rotenberg said Vikings officials submitted a draft of a memorandum of understanding – the document outlining the financial agreements of the deal – which the University rejected.

“I’m sorry to say that the agreement did not meet (financial) parameters,” Rotenberg said.

In the Vikings’ proposal, the team requested a contract termination clause every five years and game-day revenue of 17,000 parking spots, Rotenberg said. It also failed to provide the University with rent payments for use of the facility, he said.

Rotenberg said the memorandum also did not reflect the University’s academic mission.

After rejecting the Vikings’ initial memorandum draft, University officials submitted their own version, which they said better addresses the University’s financial considerations.

“We need to create firewalls to ensure the stadium is not a drain on the University teaching and research mission,” Rotenberg said.

Regent David Metzen said he is disappointed the deal is not further along. He also said he hopes Vikings officials understand public institutions are on different timelines than private businesses.

“To think that we can put this together like a first-round draft choice between two agents, sign it and announce it is not going to happen,” he said.

Regent Frank Berman said he agrees with Metzen. He said the issue of the Vikings having a profit motive and the University having an academic motive needs to be addressed.

“It seems to me they have to come to the table with financial concerns,” Berman said. “The Vikings need to get serious and address our motives, not only their own.”

University officials last week set a Nov. 27 deadline for the Vikings to submit a final memorandum of understanding. The regents will vote on the proposal at their next meeting Dec. 13. The state Legislature will discuss the stadium proposal when the next legislative session begins in January.

University Chief Financial Officer Richard Pfutzenreuter updated the board on stadium pre-design issues, saying “excellent progress” has been made. He said University officials have met with state and political leaders and community groups concerning several topics including the size of the facility as well as traffic and parking issues.

Pfutzenreuter said the stadium proposal includes 68,500 seats, which can be downsized to 55,000 for Gophers games. The stadium is also expandable to 72,000 seats for hosting a Super Bowl or other large events, he said.

The proposal for the 1.7 million-square-foot stadium, Pfutzenreuter said, allows for open space surrounding the structure for future University expansion.

Part of the proposal includes a transit station, which will have 2,000 parking spots and will be located west of the stadium on the transitway to the St. Paul campus, Pfutzenreuter said. Mass transit will play a significant role in handling traffic on Vikings game days, with an estimated 48 percent to 50 percent of attendees using a bus to get to the stadium, he said.

The transit station also will be built to accommodate future light- rail expansions, Pfutzenreuter said.

Another transit station is slated to be built on the State Fair grounds to accommodate traffic, he said.

Pfutzenreuter said the proposal calls for purchasing land and buildings surrounding the stadium to create parking for charter buses. These properties are currently leased by the University and include The Minnesota Daily’s office and the property at 2221 University Ave. S.E.

The University’s rejection of the Vikings’ memorandum of understanding leaves the team with less than three weeks to complete a final draft.

“I think the jury is still out on whether this will be accomplished,” Rotenberg said. “We have very little time.”

Paul Sand welcomes comments at [email protected]