Senator’s bill backs on-campus stadium

Meanwhile, Gov. Tim Pawlenty introduced a plan to fund and build new stadiums for the Twins and Vikings.

A legislator introduced a bill last week in the State Senate that would provide $56 million in state funding for an on-campus Gophers-only stadium.

The University would pay the remaining $166 million of the stadium’s estimated $222 million cost.

“The University of Minnesota is our team,” said Sen. Geoff Michel, R-Edina, who presented the bill. “And we’ve got to take care of our team and its future facility needs.”

Michel presented his bill the same day Gov. Tim Pawlenty announced his plan to build new stadiums for the Twins and the Vikings.

Michel said he is not worried about Pawlenty’s stadium plan overshadowing the University stadium bill.

“We might not get all the headlines,” Michel said, “but more importantly, we already have bipartisan support and we’re building it one legislator at a time. I’d rather have votes than headlines.”

Michel said he has been in weekly contact with the governor’s office about the University stadium bill.

“I’d love to have the support,” Michel said, “and I think we’ll eventually get it.”

But Pawlenty’s plan does not address the University’s desire for a new on-campus football stadium.

In the governor’s plan, the professional teams would pay approximately one-third of the cost for their stadiums, with state and local governments paying the rest. The state funding would come from tax revenue generated by the new stadiums.

Pawlenty said he plans to address a University football facility in the future, but the University’s proposal “isn’t quite ripe enough.”

University officials said they are still optimistic about bringing Gophers football back to campus.

“(Pawlenty) didn’t say that he was not supportive of the University of Minnesota looking for an on-campus facility, so I perceive that as a positive,” Athletics Director Joel Maturi said.

But because Pawlenty did not specifically address the University, there is some concern among University officials that he might still support a shared facility with the Vikings in Blaine, Minn.

“I don’t think there’s any interest on the part of the University of wanting to take a road trip to Blaine to play a football game,” University chief financial officer Richard Pfutzenreuter said. “We want Gopher football back on the University of Minnesota campus.”

Rep. Doug Stang, R-Cold Spring, said he plans to introduce Michel’s bill in the House soon, but said there is “greater urgency right now” for the professional teams.

Maturi said he understands the professional teams are a higher priority because they would likely leave the state if they do not receive new stadiums.

“We don’t have that threat,” Maturi said. “We’re not going anywhere. We’re not going to be the Los Angeles Gophers.”

Rep. Philip Krinkie, R-Shoreview, an avid stadium opponent, said he would not support stadiums for the professional teams or the University.

Krinkie said it would be “irresponsible” and “totally ridiculous” for Stang to propose a new bill to the House this late in the legislative session.

But Stang said the governor’s support might accelerate the process.

“I think the pro stadiums moving forward probably help the University as well,” Stang said. “It may not get done this year, but I think it does move their case forward.”

Some University officials are concerned about the University having to pay 75 percent of the cost of its stadium, while professional teams would pay 33 percent for their stadiums.

Pfutzenreuter said he feels “lousy” about the inequality.

But Maturi said how much state money the University needs depends on how much he can raise from private donations.

“If we can raise 70 percent, I would hope they’d be able to come up with 30,” Maturi said. “By the same token, if we could raise 80, maybe they only need to come up with 20.”