U may reveal stadium plan

Than Tibbetts

University officials could make a major announcement regarding the proposed $235 million on-campus stadium as early as Thursday.

Officials have tentatively reserved space in the McNamara alumni center for several weeks for press conferences, only to have them called off. A press conference for Tuesday morning and one for Thursday have also been tentatively scheduled.

Athletics Director Joel Maturi cautioned that press conferences “are not the type of things you set yesterday to do today.”

Despite a published report last week that the University is negotiating terms with TCF Financial Corp. as the lead donor in the stadium project, officials insisted Tuesday that there was not a signed agreement between the University and any potential donor.

“We will have a signed agreement before we make an announcement,” Maturi said.

The officials also declined to name any corporation or outline the terms being negotiated with the University.

“There is no signed document at this time,” said Richard Pfutzenreuter, the University’s chief financial officer. “We are in negotiations with a variety of sponsors, and there is simply no signed document today.”

Board of Regents Chairman Dave Metzen said he heard that there might be a press conference Thursday.

He said officials have been especially careful about releasing information before any deal is signed.

“The reason they’re holding back is because they haven’t finalized the deal yet,” he said Tuesday. “They’re still working on it this afternoon.”

Officials emphasized their cautious approach to any stadium announcement from their experience with South Dakota banker T. Denny Sanford in 2003. Sanford later worked for months with the University to negotiate terms of the deal, but both sides were unable to reach an agreement.

“(University officials) want to be careful,” Metzen said. “We had the big announcement, and nothing ever happened. We’re being overly cautious.”

Maturi said lawyers representing the University and potential donors are scrutinizing every detail of the stadium contract, covering situations from signage size to what happens if the company changes its name in the future.

Pfutzenreuter said that every detail must be worked out before any announcement will be made.

“They are complicated documents, and it would be wrong for us to say there’s any deal before there really is one,” he said.

Pfutzenreuter said that he will be saying the same thing today at the State Capitol in front of the Senate State and Local Government Operations Committee, as Sen. Geoff Michel, R-Edina, presents his stadium bill for the first time this year. The hearing is scheduled for noon.

The bill asks the state to pay for 40 percent of the $235 million stadium, with the University paying for the remainder through private donations, sponsorship deals and possibly student fees.

– Anna Weggel contributed to this report.