Poll: Gophers stadium leads the pack

Molly Moker

Gov. Tim Pawlenty’s stadium screening committee recommended Monday the University not receive stadium funding, even though Minnesotans said they are supportive of it.

A poll released Monday by the St. Paul Pioneer Press and Minnesota Public Radio showed more Minnesotans favor public funding for a Gophers stadium than for a Minnesota Vikings or a Minnesota Twins stadium.

University President Bob Bruininks said he was pleased with the consensus of the poll.

Bruininks said student contribution could be necessary to finance an on-campus stadium and motivate outside donors to contribute as well.

“Right now we need to explore some options,” Bruininks said. “We’re going to talk to students and find a way to make this stadium a reality.”

In a letter to Minnesota Student Association President Eric Dyer, Bruininks said that besides student contributions, the University is examining such funding resources as private donations, sponsorship agreements, new stadium and parking revenue and public support. The University proposed it can raise 60 percent – $130 million – of the total $222 million stadium cost from private funding.

University chief financial officer Richard Pfutzenreuter said this poll will help bring in funding for the University.

“It’s spectacular that the public recognizes the need to bring Gopher football back to campus,” Pfutzenreuter said. “This is a very positive message and will give legislators more confidence to support the University.”

The poll, conducted by Mason Dixon Polling and Research in Washington surveyed 625 Minnesotans by phone Jan. 26-28.

But a Jan. 25 Star Tribune poll had opposite findings.

Of the people polled, 29 percent said the Vikings and the Twins should get a new stadium, while 16 percent wanted the

Gophers to have their own stadium. More than half said the Vikings and the Gophers should continue to share a stadium.

The poll was given to 821 adults by phone Jan. 15-20.

Although the Gophers currently have the most support from Minnesotans, some on Pawlenty’s stadium committee said this will not mean more money for the University when the governor makes his recommendation later this month.

Committee member Sen. Cal Larson, R-Fergus Falls, said he thinks Pawlenty will stick to the committee’s recommendation of asking the University to raise funding itself and come to the state for the rest later.

“I have great faith in the University Alumni Association to raise that money,” Larson said. “There have to be some great sugar daddies out there somewhere.”

Larson said he supports bringing a Gophers stadium back to campus and will introduce a bill in the next 10 days outlining how the University can privately fund the money needed for the stadium.

Committee member Sen. Steve Kelley, DFL-Hopkins, said although he cannot speculate what will happen, having public support is always a positive thing.

“It’s one thing the University has arguing in its favor,” Kelley said.