New stadium site might cost more

Jeremy Taff

Although University administrators said they didn’t want to spend more than $2 million on a new women’s soccer stadium, they might have to do just that to be “good neighbors” with Falcon Heights.
A plan approved by regents in July would put a stadium near Cleveland and Larpenteur avenues 30 feet from some residents’ property lines. Vocal opposition to the plan caused administrators to reconsider.
In October, the Board of Regents will vote on a new plan that would satisfy both city residents who don’t want the stadium in their backyards and University administrators under federal pressure to accommodate the needs of women’s athletics.
“I think this reflects a lot of people’s attempts to be good neighbors over here,” said Mike Martin, Dean of the College of Agricultural, Food, and Environmental Science. “I think it’s a way a university ought to behave, this university in particular.”
The catch is that the new proposal will cost more money, an amount that administrators have yet to disclose.
The original plan for the Cleveland and Larpenteur site would cost about $2 million. McKinley Boston, vice president for Student Development and Athletics, said the University would be counting on the cities of St. Paul and Falcon Heights as well as Ramsey County to help raise the additional funding that would be required if the new stadium proposal passes.
“We want (the cities and county) to help the University lobby the Legislature to identify funding for additional costs,” Boston said. “We’re all optimistic, but it’s not a deal until it’s a deal.”
Federal law Title IX requires the University take action to create more equity between men’s and women’s athletics by October.
Regents originally passed a policy in July to build the stadium at a site on Cleveland and Larpenteur avenues to accommodate women’s soccer. After Falcon Heights residents publicly opposed the plan because of concerns about parking and noise, regents added a stipulation that the site could be moved if a cost-efficient alternative was found by October.
At September’s regents meeting in Marshall, Minn., the recreation fields neighboring the University Les Bolstad Golf Course were outlined as a possible location for the stadium. Regents will vote on the proposal next month.
“It’s not ideal,” said Falcon Heights mayor Sue Gehrz of the new location, “but it’s certainly a much better situation for the University and for women’s soccer.”
If regents pass the alternative site proposal, the soccer stadium would displace the recreation fields that now stand in the site. New fields would be built across the street from the state fairgrounds grandstand, currently pasture land where 200 sheep reside. About 150 of those sheep would be shipped to the Morris campus to make room for the fields, depending on the need, Martin said.
“We will try to create a neighborhood-friendly home for women’s soccer while preserving our capacity to carry out our research and teaching mission,” Martin said. “We will try to come up with a flexible solution that allows recreational sports to be accessible to students.”
Gehrz said the new proposed site would give women’s soccer more space for their program in the coming years, as soccer increases in popularity.
“It allows for future expansion,” Gehrz said. “And we all felt that was critical for the women’s soccer program.”