Students split on footing the bill

Patricia Drey

For some students, talk of an on-campus stadium has stirred visions of the University Marching Band rolling down University Avenue and through its doors as it did at Memorial Stadium before the arena was demolished.

For others, what comes to mind is Coffman Union, a more recent University undertaking completed late and over budget.

After the release of preliminary designs and costs for an on-campus stadium and its $222 million price tag, students are left with mixed reactions to the plans.

“It’s definitely been a dream of every marching band member to march down University Avenue again and through the main gates of an on-campus stadium,” said Brian Blaser, student representative to a stadium advisory committee, trombone player and journalism senior.

In addition to Gophers football, a new stadium would house expanded facilities for the band, which could include rehearsal rooms, uniform rooms, locker rooms and an instrument storage room. Improving facilities could also help bolster the band’s national image, Blaser said.

An on-campus stadium belongs on the list of long-term University goals, Blaser said.

Another band member, Scott VanOort, said a new stadium would increase game attendance, and the improved atmosphere of an outdoor stadium would allow the band to energize the crowds better.

VanOort, an aerospace engineering sophomore who plays the alto saxophone, said the Metrodome’s acoustics are not good, and its regulated temperature takes away from the college football atmosphere.

While Blaser, VanOort and other students say a campus stadium could improve campus morale, others say it could harm it.

“A big problem with student morale is that we’re paying so much in student tuition and fees,” said Kris Houlton, a representative in the University Senate. “I don’t think the happiness of going to a game is going to offset that.”

Houlton, a first-year graduate student, supported a recent Graduate and Professional Student Assembly resolution stating that the University should avoid using student fees to support an on-campus stadium. Although Houlton said she is indifferent on whether the University should build a stadium, she said she is concerned students’ finances could be forced to stretch further.

The $222 million projected figure officials put on the stadium Monday makes Houlton suspicious, she said, because the University has an interest in making the figure seem small.

“I think we all learned with Coffman Union,” she said. “It went way over budget and we’re all paying for that, and we’ll continue to pay for that for years.”

Another student senator, Michelle Stumm, said the projected stadium cost is a waste of money, and that the University should prioritize fixing current buildings.

Stumm, an environmental design senior, said an on-campus stadium would not raise game attendance. She said the Metrodome is not far from campus, and buses provide students access.

An on-campus stadium should be a priority, but not the highest priority for the University, student senator Tom Zearley said.

“Obviously on campus we have more than just academics and research, we have a culture,” said Zearley, a biosystems and agricultural engineering sophomore. “I think that’s a priority, but not necessarily the highest priority when I look at my tuition bill.”