Bruininks presents goals

Branden Peterson

University President Bob Bruininks introduced six written statements to the Board of Regents on Thursday outlining how the University will move forward in its quest to build an on-campus Gophers football stadium.

The hour-long presentation and discussion occurred during the board’s first day of monthly meetings.

The statements from the University president’s office outline how the stadium project will maintain the institution’s academic mission, limit financial risk, mesh with the community and improve people’s experience at the University.

In opening the discussion, Bruininks said the University is working on the project because the University feels the football team’s playing at the Metrodome might present future problems.

The Twins, Vikings and Gophers currently share use of the facility, but Bruininks said if the professional teams leave the facility, the University cannot afford to maintain it alone.

He also said the University’s Metrodome lease goes through 2011, and he thinks the process of developing, fund raising and constructing a new stadium will take four to five years.

“This is a long-term issue, a long-term race,” Bruininks said.

How the University will pay for a multimillion-dollar stadium is still a question, and Bruininks said the project will rely significantly on private fund raising.

“We don’t want to ask for appropriations from the state’s general funding,” Bruininks said. “Those resources support the University’s academic and capital needs.”

In discussing how the project development will continue, Regent Frank Berman asked Bruininks what risks he envisions if plans move forward.

Bruininks said the University should be careful not to take on any debt if not enough money is privately raised for the project, but taking on debt is a possible risk of the plan.

Regent William Hogan questioned why the University does not commit to only private funding, eliminating any possible lobbying for public financial support on the project.

Bruininks said that, with pollution to clean up in the Huron parking lots and several possible road changes around the stadium site, public funding might be available to pay for the projects.

Bruininks said he wants the stadium to be privately funded, and although he said he has no plans to go to the state for funds, he said he will leave the state funding possibility open if it does not interfere with academic priorities.

Locking the project to private dollars might limit other possible sources, several administrators and regents said.

Expecting the Twins and Vikings will lobby for stadium money at the State Capitol during the next session, Bruininks and several regents said the University could receive money for the project if the other professional teams also secure money.

“We shouldn’t tie our hands completely,” Bruininks said, referring to using only private funds.

The project costs will be released after the stadium feasibility study is completed in December.