MSA to vote on stadium fees hike

A proposed resolution asks the University not to assess students more than $50 per semester.

K.C. Howard

The Minnesota Student Association Forum will vote tomorrow on a resolution to cap students’ contributions to an on-campus stadium at $50 per semester.

Once groundbreaking begins, undergraduates would pay between $0 and $50 per semester for 30 years to finance bonds for the $222 million project, according to the resolution.

In return, students could get discounted parking and tickets and help make decisions on naming rights and event scheduling.

“It’s to ensure students aren’t the release valve for escalating costs of the stadium, to put a cap on the student donation, and to put us in the position of being donors and being treated as donors,” MSA President Eric Dyer said.

The fee would leverage $45 million to $50 million toward the stadium; but according to the University’s ideal funding plan, the cap would leave the project $33 million short of completion – an amount that could be made up through naming rights and other deals, said Richard Pfutzenreuter, the University’s chief financial officer.

That financial structure depends on the State Legislature providing 40 percent of the funding and matching students’ dollars with donors.

University officials hope to decide how much of the stadium debt students will shoulder next fall, pending legislative action this session.

Although they are pleased students are preparing to define their fiscal position, they said students must remain flexible, resolution or not.

“I’m not very worried that this is a minimum or a maximum yet,” Pfutzenreuter said. “It’s a very important step for the students to say what they would like. But they’re going to have to appreciate the delicacy of the situation with the state and with the donors.”

If the binding MSA resolution passes, Dyer said students would not waver on the amount.

“Right now this student body isn’t flexible,” he said. “Below the $50 mark, we’re plenty flexible.”

But legislators do not seem to favor providing 40 percent of the stadium’s cost, meaning the University might have to delay construction or depend more on students and private donors.

Sen. Geoff Michel, R-Edina, has authored the most generous legislation to date, providing 25 percent of the funds.

“Given the tough budget times and cuts to health care and welfare, it’s hard for the state to do much more,” Michel said. “I think it’s great that there is some willingness among the student body to be a part of this. I think it’s going to be necessary.”

But whether students want to contribute at all could become a source of tension.

“It won’t pass unanimously,” MSA officer and presidential candidate Tom Zearley said. “Ideally we would like to do this later, but we feel we need to do this now so that we protect students later on.”

Another presidential hopeful, Bob Gindorff, said MSA should wait before staking out students’ positions.

“I hear from so many students that their fees are too high,” Gindorff said. “Some just don’t want to support a stadium that maybe they won’t go to.”