Area residents protest vote for soccer stadium

Jeremy Taff

Amid a room full of angry Falcon Heights residents and joyful coaches and fans, the Board of Regents approved plans Thursday morning to build a new women’s soccer stadium.
Despite residents’ protests, the stadium is slated to be built near Larpenteur and Cleveland avenues in Falcon Heights.
About 150 spectators lined the back walls of the second-floor regents room Thursday and filtered into the hallway to await the board’s decision.
Regents passed a resolution that puts College of Architecture Dean Thomas Fisher in charge of a committee to address the needs of both the women’s soccer program and Falcon Heights residents. The resolution pledges that the University will continue to research alternative sites suggested by the community until Sept. 9.
“If there’s another solution out there we’re willing to do it,” said University President Mark Yudof. “There’s nothing I’d prefer more than to resolve this in a way completely satisfactory with members of the neighborhood.”
If the community doesn’t find an alternative site, construction of the stadium will begin in November — just in time for the project to be completed and to kick off the soccer season in August 1999.
Administrators admit the September deadline gives concerned residents little leeway in finding alternatives for the stadium.
“I do agree, the criteria we’ve set are fairly high hurdles to overcome,” said Tonya Brown, Yudof’s chief of staff. “The community should be very aggressive about getting out there and helping us beat the bushes.”
Brown said out of the eight sites considered for the stadium, the Cleveland and Larpenteur location is the only possibility with current funding. The next cheapest alternate location would cost an extra $2 million, money school officials say the University doesn’t have.
Residents say the money is available, given enough time. Bob Anderson, president of the Neighbors of the St. Paul Campus, said he feels the community could lobby the Legislature for further funding.
Donna Peterson, interim vice president for institutional relations, has experience lobbying the Legislature for University funding. She said the probability of getting state money for this project next year is unlikely. “We could probably only get funding for emergency kinds of things,” Peterson said.
Administrators are adamant about getting construction started this fall to comply with a federal Title IX deadline soon approaching.
“Any further delay would be adisservice to student athletes,” Brown said. Title IX, a federal law designed to ensure male and female athletes have comparable opportunities, requires the University to build more facilities for women’s athletics.
Women’s soccer coach Sue Montagne said she’s waited five years for the proposed stadium and hopes residents will attend the team’s first game in the new stadium.
“This is a great day for the women’s soccer program,” Montagne said. “We’ll be the best neighbors we can possibly be.”