On-campus stadium bills gain support

Legislators have amended the bills to increase support and reduce student fees.

by Jim Hammerand

On-campus stadium bills seem to be on a roll after the House Capital Investment Committee sent the House version of the bill to the House Ways and Means Committee on Wednesday at the Capitol by a vote of 19-3.

This is the third on-campus stadium bill to advance in committee since Tuesday, when the state Senate Higher Education Budget Division sent two bills to the Senate Finance Committee after adding language that would transfer University land to the state to help finance the stadium.

The push for an on-campus stadium “has bipartisan and bicameral support,” said state Rep. Ron Abrams, R-Minnetonka, sponsor of Wednesday’s House bill. Abrams introduced his on-campus stadium bill in January 2005 to complement the Senate version, which had been introduced a week earlier by state Sen. Geoff Michel, R-Edina.

Legislators have amended all three bills to include the UMore Park land transfer. The deal would allow the University to reduce the expected $50 per-semester student fee to a $25 per-semester student fee.

Fees would be reduced because of more state support for the stadium. The deal would increase the state’s financial commitment to the stadium to $9.4 million per year for 25 years in exchange for 2,840 acres of University land near Rosemount.

An on-campus stadium would cost about $250 million, according to the University, an amount officials said the University would like to split with the state 50-50.

A Senate bill sponsored by state Sen. Larry Pogemiller, DFL-Minneapolis, would restrict the University from financing the stadium through student fees or by selling naming rights. TCF Bank had pledged $35 million over 25 years for an on-campus stadium in exchange for naming rights, a move Pogemiller likened to “selling advertising.”

Abrams said the bill probably would be discussed Monday in the House Ways and Means Committee, reach the floor within the next two weeks and pass this year.