U to seek student money for stadium

Stadium donor T. Denny Sanford has said he wants only private donations to finance the proposed facility.

Branden Peterson

Students might be asked to dig into their pockets to help fund an on-campus football stadium, University officials said Wednesday.

“We’re going to explore with student leadership what might be possible,” University chief financial officer Richard Pfutzenreuter said.

He said the University is only looking at possibilities for student financial help and that no formal plans are in place.

On Tuesday, University Relations Vice President Sandra Gardebring asked Minnesota Student Association leaders to explore ways students could help pay for the project.

MSA President Eric Dyer said there are several examples in the Big Ten where students paid some stadium-related costs.

Dyer said some of the schools assessed a fee to all students, but he said he is waiting for a dollar figure from the University before considering specific plans.

Pfutzenreuter said several firms are developing cost estimates for an on-campus project and said cost estimates will be available in late October.

University officials previously told Dyer students might be asked to contribute toward the stadium.

He said if students are not in favor of helping fund the stadium, MSA will not support stadium fund raising.

“What we need, as students, is a number,” Dyer said, adding he is still gauging student support.

“It’ll change the campus,” he said. But Dyer said MSA will only represent what students want. He said graduate and professional students are the least in favor of a new stadium.

Using student funds is not unprecedented in Minnesota.

In 2001, students at St. Cloud State University voted to contribute approximately $16 million through fees toward a new multi-use stadium, a recreational center and a student union, said Diana Burlison, associate vice president for administrative affairs at St. Cloud State.

Construction on the $11 million stadium for football, soccer and recreational sports began this summer.

Because of the vote, this year students will be charged $2.50 per credit to subsidize the new facilities. However, Burlison said the fees will increase slightly over the next few years.

Burlison said the administration was grateful to the students and that the student contribution was necessary.

“This is something that’s going to be in use for years to come,” she said, adding that the facilities will open in 2005.

Additional fees are not the only place the University is looking to fund the stadium.

Fund-raising organizer Dave Mona is arranging several other fund-raisers, including selling T-shirts for the stadium.

Mona, also the broadcast voice of Gophers football, said there are several other ideas in the works.

South Dakota bank owner T. Denny Sanford, who pledged $35 million for the stadium, said last week students are one of the last places he wants to seek money for a stadium.

Since announcing his gift, Sanford said several times he wants the facility to be financed completely with private donations.

Memorial Stadium, formerly home to Gophers football for more than 60 years, was partly financed by students in the early 1920s, University spokeswoman Patty Mattern said.

However, Memorial Stadium’s $650,000 price tag in 1924 is substantially less than preliminary estimates for the new stadium, which University officials said will cost more than $100 million.