MSA flips support for stadium bills

by Jim Hammerand

The Minnesota Student Association on Tuesday night retracted support of an on-campus stadium bill it sensed was doomed.

The MSA vote came on the same day the Senate Higher Education Budget Division amended both bills and advanced them to the Senate Finance Committee.

After voting March 2 to support a bill sponsored by state Sen. Larry Pogemiller, DFL-Minneapolis, MSA voted Tuesday to support instead a bill that would place fewer restrictions on stadium financing.

Pogemiller’s bill would prohibit the University from financing an on-campus stadium through student fees or naming rights. Instead, he said the stadium should be built with public money.

The less restrictive bill, authored by state Sen. Geoff Michel, R-Edina, has a better chance of becoming law, said Steve Wang, MSA representative to the Board of Regents.

Following Monday’s approval of the UMore Park land transfer by the Board of Regents, the committee amended both bills to include the land deal. The deal would allow the University to reduce the expected $50 per-semester student fee to a $25 per-semester student fee.

Fees would be reduced because of more state support for the stadium. The deal would increase the state’s financial commitment to the stadium by $9.4 million per year for 25 years in exchange for 2,840 acres of University land near Rosemount.

Speaking in support of the bills, University President Bob Bruininks came before the Senate Higher Education Budget Division with a football from the Gophers’ 1941 national championship season as “inspiration to bring the proposal home.”

He said an on-campus stadium would “resurrect great game day traditions” and become a University focal point, as host to events such as graduations and concerts.

The committee asked questions about how the state would benefit from the UMore Park land deal.

State Sen. Rod Skoe, DFL-Clearbrook, asked why the University was interested in selling only about a third of the land, saying, “If it’s that good a deal, maybe we ought to go whole-hog and sell it all.”

Pogemiller and Michel could not be reached by press time.