Gophers one step closer to stadium
ST. PAUL -- The University of Minnesota football team is a step closer to playing on campus after events Thursday. The House voted 103-30 for a $249 million stadium. "The strong vote today gets us to the 50-yard line," university President Robert...
ST. PAUL -- The University of Minnesota football team is a step closer to playing on campus after events Thursday.
The House voted 103-30 for a $249 million stadium.
"The strong vote today gets us to the 50-yard line," university President Robert Bruininks said. "Now we're looking to the Senate to get us into the end zone."
The stadium would be used for Gopher football games and a variety of other activities, including possibly hosting high school football championships, Rep. Ron Abrams, R-Minnetonka, said.
The biggest split in the debate came over whether the university should sell U-More Park to the state and use the payments to help fund the stadium.
Rep. Jim Knoblach, R-St. Cloud, failed on an 86-47 vote to remove the land swap provision.
The university would sell the state 2,800 acres of nearly pristine Dakota County land for $9.4 million a year, while retaining rights to use it forever.
Originally, the university proposed that the state pay $7.4 million a year for up to 25 years without the land swap.
"The new deal is the state gets to buy state land, which the previous tenant gets to keep," said Rep. Dean Urdahl, R-Grove City. "We get to pay $2 million (a year) more than the original bill that everyone was going to vote for anyway."
However, Rep. Denny McNamara, R-Hastings, said the state needs to snap up the offer for unspecified outdoor recreation uses.
"This is a once-in-a-statehood opportunity," he said.
Rep. Paul Marquart, DFL-Dilworth, said he supports a new stadium, but wonders why the university can be creative enough to find ways to fund a stadium when in 2003 it laid off Extension Service agriculture educators.
"I really question the University of Minnesota's priorities," Marquart said.
Among those voting against the stadium were Reps. Kent Eken, DFL-Twin Valley; Brita Sailer, DFL-Park Rapids; and Torrey Westrom, R-Elbow Lake.
Other than state payments, funding would come from private donations, a $25 annual student fee, parking revenues and $35 million to name it TCF Bank Stadium.
The 50,000-seat open-air stadium would be built on what is now a parking lot near the university's basketball and hockey facilities, close to the site where Memorial Stadium stood until the Gophers moved to the Metrodome in 1982.
The football field, to be completed in 2009, is one of three stadium proposals being considered by legislators. However, only the Gophers stadium would take direct state money; Twins and Viking stadium bills would use sales tax collected near the stadiums.
Gov. Tim Pawlenty said "three is probably too many," but he could accept all three because for the Twins and Vikings "it is not a state finance issue."