Time for stadium deals ticking away

The deal with TCF expires Dec. 31, and the Best Buy endorsement deal ends Feb. 15.

Lora Pabst

University officials hoping for a special legislative session to consider an on-campus Gophers stadium didn’t have much to be thankful for as the Thanksgiving holiday passed.

University Chief Financial Officer Richard Pfutzenreuter has consistently said it is difficult to get a special session after Thanksgiving because of the holiday season.

The University risks losing the $35 million TCF Financial naming rights agreement if it doesn’t get legislative approval for a new stadium by Dec. 31, the agreement’s expiration date. The $2.5 million sponsorship deal with Best Buy expires Feb. 15.

Pfutzenreuter said the University will attempt to renegotiate the deals if they are in danger of expiring. Before the University contacts the businesses, it will make another effort to reach out to Gov. Tim Pawlenty, he said.

“(This week), we’ll take the temperature of the governor about a special session,” Pfutzenreuter said.

He said any negotiations with TCF would be before Dec. 31.

“If it’s simply changing the (expiration) date, that’s relatively easy,” he said. “People at TCF and the University feel good about the arrangement.”

A spokeswoman for Best Buy has said that in the past the company would be willing to renegotiate or renew its contract.

But even if the contracts with TCF and Best Buy are renegotiated, the University still has to get the stadium bill past the state Legislature.

Phil Esten, special assistant to the athletics director, said the University is hopeful a special session could still be called before the beginning of the spring session, which begins in March.

“It would make a difference if we could get it done before the spring session begins,” he said. “It’s a bonding year, and it’s an election year, so all things considered, there are a number of other priorities at the Legislature.”

Esten said an option the University might pursue is to get a special session in the days immediately before the regular session begins.

Brian McClung, Pawlenty’s press secretary, said the governor’s office has continued to talk with legislators over the past few weeks about agreeing to a limited agenda special session.

“As was the case several weeks ago, legislative leaders continue to indicate that they cannot guarantee that a special session would stay focused and on track,” McClung wrote in an e-mail.

Donna Peterson, University associate vice president of government relations, said it is unlikely a special session would be called before January. The University will continue conversations with Pawlenty and state legislative leaders about the Gophers stadium bill and a possible special session.

“That’s always an option to have a special session just before the regular session,” Peterson said. “We’ll be interested in taking up (the Gophers stadium) bill any time they want to.”

As for the concern about the bill passing during an election and bonding bill year, Peterson said the University is considering all factors the Legislature will confront.

“We have to make a case for the stadium and that case is separate from an election in the fall,” she said.