U stadium a topic for special session

Than Tibbetts

The University’s quest for a $235 million on-campus stadium hit a speed bump this week.

The end of the regular session in the State Legislature on Monday passed without action on stadiums in the House or Senate.

With several important legislative measures to be finished by lawmakers, Gov. Tim Pawlenty immediately ordered a special session. The session will provide another opportunity for stadium bills at the Capitol.

Still, University officials are optimistic that the stadium bill will get on the legislative agenda.

Richard Pfutzenreuter, the University’s chief financial officer, said he hoped stadium bills would be heard before the regular session expired.

“We were nudging them,” he said. “I don’t think it was anything negative about the Gophers stadium, it was just that they didn’t do their other business so they weren’t going to take time to do a stadium right now.”

Sen. Geoff Michel, R-Edina, said the Legislature needs to take care of the state’s budget before it can tackle stadium issues.

“As you know, we still don’t have a global budget agreement. With that, people are not comfortable addressing stadium issues,” he said. “I will do everything in my power to see that it gets a hearing.”

The University is asking the Legislature to pay 40 percent of the stadium’s total cost, or $94 million.

Sen. David Tomassoni, DFL-Chisholm, said he likes the idea of having football back on campus.

“The University has a proposal, they’re ready to go with money coming in from several different sources,” he said. “And the Legislature is, in a lot of different ways, responsible for the University of Minnesota.”

Athletics Director Joel Maturi missed the Big Ten conference meetings in Chicago last because there was a chance there would be hearings at the State Capitol. He said a special session would not change his strategy for approaching the Legislature.

“We don’t plan any significant changes, mainly because we believe very strongly in what we’ve proposed from day one,” he said.

University officials plan on paying for the stadium through a variety of sources. Of the University’s $141 million share of the cost, $75 million will come from corporate and private

sponsorships and $50 million will come from Student Services Fees. The remainder will come from parking and game-day revenue.

TCF signed an agreement in March with the University for naming rights to the stadium. It is worth $35 million. The stadium will be known as TCF Bank Stadium.

Maturi said more individuals have committed donations to the project, possibly for naming rights to sections or entry gates.

Not everyone has been in accord with the University’s plans for the stadium.

Sen. Larry Pogemiller, DFL-Minneapolis, who represents part of the University, expressed his disappointment when the naming agreement was announced. He said the deal “cheapens our University.”

Some graduate students have come out in opposition to the student fees. The Council of Graduate Students passed a resolution in February 2004 opposing University officials’ plans to assess a student fee for the stadium.

Contractors are currently moving ahead with environmental assessments of the stadium site.