U talks about benefit plan

Students might pay $50 a semester toward an on-campus stadium.

Than Tibbetts

University officials met with student leaders Wednesday to discuss a benefits package for students who could soon be paying $50 a semester toward an on-campus stadium.

The stadium is expected to cost $235 million. The University wants the state to pick up 40 percent of the cost, or $94 million. The rest will come from sponsorships, game-day revenues and the student fee.

Richard Pfutzenreuter, the University’s chief financial officer, said the University wants to give back to students for their contribution.

“This isn’t going to be just an ‘ask-for-money’ deal,” he said. “It’s never been a proposal that has been take, take, take from the students.”

Athletics Director Joel Maturi said many ideas have been discussed regarding benefits for students.

“I think we have to do the right thing,” he said. “Students should be recognized in some manner for their contributions.”

Maturi said some ideas include access to the stadium for recreational sports and ticket packages for football games.

Outgoing Minnesota Student Association Vice President Amy Jo Pierce said MSA has already passed a resolution stating any student fees for the stadium should be capped at $50 per semester.

Pierce said the current plan has first-year students and sophomores paying the fee beginning fall 2006, first-year students, sophomores and juniors paying in 2007 and everyone paying the fee in 2008. The stadium fee will be added to the regular University fee.

The student fee could last as long as 25 years, which is how long the University will be paying off the debt for the stadium’s construction.

Pierce said MSA passed another resolution that said students should have “naming rights” to the stadium’s south plaza, which is expected to be a entrance dedicated to students.

Student contributions could be reduced if more corporate and private money were committed to the project than expected, Pfutzenreuter said.

As the University’s plan stands now, students will contribute $15 million more to the project than TCF, which bought naming rights to the stadium for $35 million.

When a State Senate committee discussed the stadium bill in March, senators amended the bill to say the Board of Regents “must also certify Ö that a provision for affordable access for University students to the University sporting events held at the football stadium has been made.”

If the Senate bill were signed by Gov. Tim Pawlenty as is, student benefits would be written into law.

Pfutzenreuter said the University’s representatives at the meeting supported that stipulation in the bill. The current bill does not have that provision.

On Tuesday, Sen. John Marty, DFL-Roseville, sent a letter to University President Bob Bruininks stating his concerns that the stadium will undercut the University’s regular state funding.

“It seems unwise to force every student, even those who don’t attend any game, to pay an additional $100 per semester for the stadium,” Marty’s letter said.

Pfutzenreuter said he has discussed offering reduced admission to arts or entertainment activities on campus to students.

“We are concerned about students who really have no interest in football and athletics,” he said.