Deal might save fees

Jim Hammerand

Proposed student fees to help pay for an on-campus stadium could be halved if a land-transfer plan is approved in a special Board of Regents meeting at 4 p.m. today.

Pending approval, the University would transfer 2,840 acres of UMore Park to the state while retaining use rights of the land. In return, the state would give about $9.4 million per year for the next 25 years to the University, which would cut in half students’ planned contributions of a $50 per-semester fee.

The land under consideration is part of a 7,500-acre park used by the University for environmental research. Vice President of Agricultural Policy Charles Muscoplat described the park as “environmentally sensitive and almost pristine,” as well as host to two threatened animal species (the loggerhead shrike and Blanding’s turtle). The park also has publicly accessible hiking and horse trails.

By transferring the land to the state, the park would be permanently protected for public use by the state while allowing the University to continue using the land as it has in the past. Muscoplat, who also is chairman of the UMore Park Taskforce, said that while the land largely is unsuitable for development, the plan still would prohibit it.

State Rep. Dennis Ozment, R-Rosemount, said the plan was a way for the state to get a return for its stadium investment, in this case a “pristine area within 25 miles of the Capitol.” He also said the state’s Department of Natural Resources is better equipped than the University to preserve the land for decades to come.

The “really good news” of the plan, according to an e-mail University President Bob Bruininks sent to students, is that less of the stadium’s estimated $250 million cost would be borne by students.

Emily Serafy Cox, Minnesota Student Association president, agreed with Bruininks’ assessment. “Fifty dollars would be quite a burden on students,” Cox said.

If the regents approve the plan, it would move to the Legislature, where it is expected to move quickly, Ozment said. “If there is opposition, I can’t imagine where it would be coming from.”