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Pawlenty signs one stadium bill; one to go

Minnesota Public Radio
May 24, 2006
Tim Pugmire

St. Paul, Minn. — The bill signing ceremony with lawmakers, university officials and alumni looked a lot like a pep rally. Gov. Tim Pawlenty wore a maroon-and-gold Minnesota shirt for the occasion, reminisced about the football games he attended as a boy, and as a U of M student, at the old Memorial Stadium and looked ahead to the new stadium that will open in 2009.

"There are very few new college football stadiums built in the country," Pawlenty said. "And so the university has a somewhat unique opportunity to put together a facility and a structure that will be a showcase, not just for the university but for our state, and hopefully will facilitate Coach Mason to do great things on the field."

The football stadium once known as the parking lot

The state will pay more than $10 million a year for 25 years to bring Golden Gopher football from the Metrodome back to the U of M campus. The new open-air stadium will seat 50,000.

"We want to start moving the roads," said University President Bob Bruininks. "We have to put in much of the core infrastructure to support a very complex stadium of this kind. So all of that starts this summer, goes into the winter and spring, with expected groundbreaking in the spring of 2007."

Earlier in the day university officials met with representatives of the three architectural firms they're considering for the stadium project. They'll make their pick in the next few days.

Athletic Director Joel Maturi says the final design might not look anything like the drawings university officials have used for the past two years. He says he wants the stadium to take in the best of everything in college football. Maturi also thinks a few unique features would be nice.

"Today one of the architectural firms talked about having little fire pits outside because maybe in the elements we could have bonfires and things of this nature. You know, kind of unique. Now whether we go down that path or not, who knows. But the detail is never too small, and we're looking at all those things to make it uniquely Minnesota, something we can celebrate in this great state," he said.

The university's share of the stadium cost is nearly $111 million. A naming rights deal with TCF Bank will bring in $35 million. The rest will come from student fees of $25 a year and private donations.

Gerald Fischer, president and CEO of the University of Minnesota Foundation, is leading the effort to raise $50 million in donations.

"We've had several oral commitments. Now it's time to go back, firm them up, get them in hand. And I think once we have the bulk of the financing secured through major gifts, then we're going to start a grassroots campaign so every Minnesotan can have a chance to contribute to this stadium," according to Fischer.

To view the entire story, go to:

Stadium bill highlights

Star Tribune
May 20, 2006


LOCATION: Minneapolis campus of the University of Minnesota, near Williams and Mariucci arenas.

SIZE: 50,000 seats — expandable to 80,000 in the future.

COST: $248 million, including infrastructure.

WHO PAYS: 55 percent would come from the state and the rest from university donors, a $25 a year student fee and a $35 million naming-rights deal with TCF Bank.

WHO GAINS: The university expects it will generate more money to help run all athletic programs at the school.

TIMELINE: Major construction would start this summer; the stadium would open for the 2009 season.

OTHER HIGHLIGHTS: The state would acquire rights to 2,840 acres of university-owned land in Dakota County. The undeveloped land was deeded to the university by the U.S. military in 1947.

To view the entire story, go to:

Pawlenty will sign stadium bills this week

Associated Press
May 21, 2006

Governor Pawlenty says he expects to sign the Twins and Gopher stadium bills sometime this week.
Appearing on WCCO-AM, Pawlenty said he might sign the Twins stadium bill at a Twins game later this week.

The governor says he probably will sign the Gopher stadium bill on the University of Minnesota campus, also this week.

Pawlenty says having a successful college football program brings a lot of energy and excitement to a university - not just in sports, but also for a school's reputation and visibility.

Plus, he says, "it'll just be a heck of a lot of fun."

U gets stadium; Twins on track

Gophers football returns to campus. In session's final hours, House approves Twins deal; Senate votes this morning.

Star Tribune
May 21, 2006
Mike Kaszuba and Mark Brunswick

The University of Minnesota and the Minnesota Twins scored impressive victories for new stadiums late Saturday at the State Capitol, paving the way for open-air football to return to campus and putting the Twins on the verge of a new ballpark.
The Twins won a 71-61 vote on the House floor shortly before midnight and overcame a last-minute scare that threatened to unravel the project. Early today, the team needed only a final approval in the Senate to secure a $522 million new stadium in downtown Minneapolis' Warehouse District.

"If it was about rich owners, if it was about the ballplayers, I don't think we'd be here," said Rep. Laura Brod, R-New Prague, who urged legislators to end the two-hour debate and endorse the team's proposal.

"It's about the stories of parents taking their kids to the ballpark and remembering it 20 years later," Brod said.

Stadium opponents launched a last-minute challenge to the project and asked that the proposal be returned to a House-Senate conference committee, a move that would have represented a serious threat to the stadium. But the effort was beaten back on a 75-57 vote.

"It feels like we're halfway there," said Jerry Bell, the Twins lead stadium negotiator, who afterward headed to the Senate chamber to await the vote there.

Earlier in the evening University officials were doing the celebrating. As the final vote on the Gophers stadium was announced in the House, Gophers Athletic Director Joel Maturi clenched his fist and smiled.

University President Robert Bruininks, wearing a maroon blazer, watched from the gallery, telling reporters afterward: "I think this is the right thing to do, and this is the right time to do it."

For the university, the vote reverses a decision made more than 25 years ago to move games to the Metrodome, sharing the facility with the Twins and the Vikings and tearing down the university's aging Memorial Stadium.

Bruininks said the stadium, which would break ground in the fall and take three years to finish, does not mean that the university is placing athletics above academics -- a complaint heard from some legislators Saturday who voted against the proposal.

"I don't think this is a misplaced priority," said Bruininks, who acknowledged that some of the university's academic funding requests had not been passed by the Legislature.

"Our academic mission comes first," he said.

Bruininks shook hands with House Speaker Steve Sviggum, who came up to the House gallery to congratulate school officials. "The best president, and now we're going to have the best stadium," said Sviggum, R-Kenyon.

To read the entire story, go to:

Negotiators still working on Gophers football stadium plan

Star Tribune
May 18, 2006

House and Senate negotiators worked on a compromise funding plan for a Gophers football stadium Thursday, ironing out differences over a land swap that would help pay for the $248 million arena.
But the conference committee still had to tackle the more controversial provisions for the University of Minnesota project, including a $50 annual student fee, a $35 million naming rights agreement with TCF Bank and a 13 percent tax on sports memorabilia.

Richard Pfutzenreuter, the university's chief financial officer, said a final compromise was within reach, possibly later on Thursday.

"Nobody in this room wants to stand in the way of getting this done," said Sen. James Metzen, DFL-South St. Paul, one of the Senate negotiators.

The bill being crafted would have the university transfer 2,840 acres of undeveloped land in Dakota County to the state Department of Natural Resources.

In exchange for annual payments of up to $9.4 million for 25 years, the state would get guarantees that the land wouldn't be developed. The parcel could be used for purposes including a regional park, wildlife management and for recreation, including horse trails and shooting. The university would retain the right to use the land for research.

The open-air stadium would be built on the edge of the university's Minneapolis campus.

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Senate OKs tax bill to help fund U stadium

With little debate, the senators voted to lower some taxes and raise others, including a sports memorabilia tax, to help fund a Gophers football stadium.

May 11, 2006
Star Tribune
Patricia Lopez and Dane Smith

A bill that would tax sports memorabilia statewide, reduce the marriage penalty for 900,000 Minnesotans, send millions in aid to school districts and local governments and increase taxes on some corporations passed the Minnesota Senate Thursday on a 36-28 vote.

The bill carries the 13-percent statewide sports memorabilia tax that was removed from a Gophers stadium bill when it passed the Senate earlier this week.

The tax would be imposed on all licensed apparel, athletic gear and other sports-logo-bearing merchandise at the wholesale level and is expected to raise retail prices 6 percent.

The memorabilia tax originally had been part of the bill for the $248 million University of Minnesota football stadium but was stripped out before the bill squeaked through the Senate on a two-vote margin earlier this week.

Although the Senate legislation differs dramatically from that of the House, which hasn't even passed a tax bill, Senate Majority Leader Dean Johnson, DFL-Willmar, said that the bill's provisions are popular with the public and that Gov. Tim Pawlenty might be a factor in reaching agreement. He said the tightening of tax laws on corporations is favored by "average people" who think offshore corporations aren't paying their fair share.

The Gophers stadium itself has bipartisan support, but the memorabilia tax has engendered opposition from Republicans and a cool reception from Pawlenty, who has pledged not to impose new statewide taxes or tax increases during his term.

Earlier in the day, after a rally Thursday outside the Capitol attended by about 100 university boosters, including Gophers football players and Tony Dungy, a quarterback for the team in the 1970s and now head coach of the Indianapolis Colts, University of Minnesota President Robert Bruininks said he has been assured by Senate DFL leaders that compromises are available to strike a deal for a Gophers stadium.

But Bruininks added that House and Senate versions of how to pay for the stadium are "miles apart right now" and that the gap could be too wide to close.

"I don't believe it should be a political football at this point," he said of the plan.

To read more, go to

Stadium debate heads into final innings

May 11, 2006
Star Tribune

A critical, final phase in the big-bucks fight over three new sports stadiums took shape Thursday amid suggestions that the Minnesota Vikings are struggling to stay in contention.

The House and Senate selected their negotiators to work out a deal on professional sports stadiums. Meanwhile, University of Minnesota boosters brought in star players and a famous football alumnus to make the case for an on-campus stadium.

The differences are stark: The House approved a standalone Twins ballpark bill, paid for in large part with a higher Hennepin County sales tax. The Senate's version would build new stadiums for the Twins and Vikings, relying on a metrowide sales tax that would also fund transit projects.

Both chambers have independent Gopher stadium plans, although a technical glitch in how the bills were passed has left the plans in limbo while legislative leaders search for a way out.

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Dungy stumps for U stadium

May 11, 2006
Pioneer Press
By Charley Walters

If the University of Minnesota needs to seal a deal for a new on-campus football stadium, that should get done today when Tony Dungy arrives in town to speak on behalf of his alma mater.

The university couldn't have a classier or better representative than Dungy, a former Gophers quarterback who is head coach of the Indianapolis Colts.

"My message will be that I know it's difficult putting these stadium deals together," Dungy said Wednesday from Indianapolis. "We actually went through two of these deals; we got one done in Tampa when I was there (as Bucs head coach), and we're in the process of building one here.

"I know it's tricky getting it financed. But from the students' standpoint and the athletes' standpoint, it's really neat to have that type of facility to play in, and I think being on campus again would be a big, big plus. That's what I'm going to talk about.

"I don't know the ins and outs of how they're trying to finance it, and that's probably not my department. But I'll just try to let everybody know how much it does mean to the athletes."

Dungy played for the Gophers on campus in Memorial Stadium. His last season was 1976.

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Gophers stadium plan passes Senate

May 9, 2006
Star Tribune
Mike Kaszuba

The Senate today approved a new on-campus football stadium for the University of Minnesota, but left unresolved for now whether a controversial 13-percent tax on sports memoribilia would be used to help pay for it.

By a 34-32 vote, the DFL-controlled Senate endorsed a proposal for a $248 million stadium that is substantially different than what the House passed earlier, and what Gov. Tim Pawlenty has said he would support.

In another key difference, the Senate voted to name the new facility Veterans Memorial Stadium -- a move that came when the Senate eliminated a plan for a $35 million naming rights agreement for the stadium with TCF Financial Corp.

Although Sen. Larry Pogemiller, DFL- Minneapolis, initiated the move for the memoribilia tax, he suddenly eliminated it from the stadium proposal today. He said it was a purely procedural matter and the tax would be included later as the stadium's primary funding source in the Senate's omnibus tax bill.

Pogemiller also said he was confident the differences between the Senate and House over the university's stadium would be resolved in a conference committee before the Legislature adjourns May 22.

The House's plan for the university's stadium would rely on the naming rights agreement, a $50-a-year student fee and a complicated land swap between the state and the university to help pay for the project. The Senate version, in addition to eliminating the naming rights agreement, also does not include the student fee increase and the land swap.

To read more, go to

Stadium debate about to shift to full Senate

May 9, 2006
Star Tribune
Mike Kaszuba

With time running short in the legislative session, the Senate this week is expected to consider plans for new stadiums for the Twins, Vikings and the University of Minnesota football team.

The Senate plan envisions building the Twins and Vikings stadiums using a half-cent metrowide sales tax, which would be subject to a referendum.

The Senate plan would pay for the university’s campus stadium in part with a 13 percent tax on all sports memorabilia.

Key votes
Referendum: The Twins-Vikings stadium bill calls for the referendum, but an attempt to remove the requirement is expected. The Twins insist they will not build a new stadium if there is a referendum.

Metrowide sales tax: The Twins proposed building a stadium using only a sales-tax increase in Hennepin County. The Vikings wanted a sales- tax increase only in Anoka County. A move to go back to those narrower taxes is likely, as is an attempt to financially separate the two stadium proposals.

Memorabilia tax: Republican senators may try to remove the tax proposal, which Gov. Tim Pawlenty has said he would veto.

Key players

Sen. Dean Johnson, majority leader: If all parts of the Senate plan passes, it will be because the Willmar DFLer held together his party’s 38-29 majority and delivered the votes. Johnson, however, has said he will vote to remove the referendum requirement from the Twins-Vikings bill.

Sen. Steve Kelley: He’s the architect of the metrowide sales-tax plan to provide money for the Twins and Vikings stadiums as well as transit. The Hopkins DFLer is running for governor.

Sen. Dick Day: As the Senate minority leader, the Owatonna Republican is a stadium supporter but a leading critic of Kelley’s plan and of the majority’s maneuvers to bring it to the floor.

Stadium plan scorecard


The $248 million stadium plan includes the memorabilia tax and commits the state to a $12.9 million annual contribution over 25 years, but calls for no student fee increase, land swap with the state or naming rights agreement.

The 50,000-seat stadium would largely be built with $235 million in state contributions over 25 years through a land swap with the university, plus a $50-a-year student fee and a $35 million naming rights agreement with TCF.

Pawlenty supports the House plan and has said he would veto the Senate's memorabilia tax.

To read more, go to

Gophers stadium bill clears Senate panel

May 3, 2006
Pioneer Press
By Aron Kahn

The University of Minnesota mounted a comeback today in the state Senate, where the Taxes Committee approved a bill for a $248 million campus football stadium. The vote split along party lines.

After a week of trying, committee Chairman Larry Pogemiller, DFL-Minneapolis, won a 7-5 vote to move his bill to the Senate floor. A floor vote has not been scheduled.

To read more, visit

Senate panel delivers ballpark surprise

The unanimous vote to require a referendum on the proposal's sales-tax increase might be a deal-breaker. But both sides agree it ain't over 'til it's over.

May 1, 2006
Star Tribune
Mike Kaszuba

A key Senate committee dealt the proposed $522 million stadium for the Minnesota Twins a potentially fatal setback Monday, voting unanimously to require a referendum on whether the project should be financed with a sales-tax increase in Hennepin County.

But the surprising vote, which followed a four-day impasse by the Senate Taxes Committee, appeared to confuse the status of the Twins stadium proposal more than anything else. While referendum supporters hailed the vote as a "huge victory," others downplayed its significance and said it may have been the temporary result of ongoing political maneuvering.

The vote, however, was not a good omen for the Twins and Hennepin County, which have insisted that delaying the project to hold a referendum, coupled with doubts that the stadium could win approval in a countywide vote, make the stadium essentially unbuildable.

"I've been nervous the last four days since I got here," Jerry Bell, the chief Twins negotiator, said of the committee's continuing meetings. "We haven't seen the end of this."

Adding to the confusion is the fact that the panel is also considering new football stadiums for the Minnesota Vikings and the University of Minnesota.

On Monday, stadium supporters appeared worried again that the committee's inaction was erasing any momentum that the push for new stadiums had been gathering as this year's legislative session heads for adjournment.

An attempt Monday to move the university stadium proposal out of the committee and directly onto the Senate floor failed decisively.

"We had it all in place, and now we're trying to muck it all up," Senate Minority Leader Dick Day, R-Owatonna, said in complaining of the committee's inactivity.

For the Twins, the political stalemate in the Senate is in sharp contrast to Wednesday, when the team's proposal won an eye-opening approval from the House that seemed to send the stadium project on its way to full passage.

Though the Senate Taxes Committee will possibly cast deciding votes today, what will emerge is largely unknown.

Sen. Steve Kelley, DFL-Hopkins, said that he remained optimistic that a solution for all three stadium proposals would be found in the coming days and that his latest plan to finance both Twins and Vikings stadiums using a metrowide half-cent sales tax may have enough votes in the full Senate to pass.

He acknowledged, however, that he was unsure whether the proposal had enough votes in the Senate Taxes Committee. "We're still working on that," he said.

To read more, go to

Editorial: Senate shouldn't block stadium bills

April 29, 2006
Star Tribune

Now isn't the time for last-minute schemes.

In football, a stunt is a pass-rushing maneuver. In politics, a stunt is what DFL senators were trying to pull off in the Senate Taxes Committee this week.

While making valid points about a new on-campus football stadium at the University of Minnesota and a new Twins ballpark, their main intent was squeezing the Republican governor into either approving new taxes that he opposes or vetoing the stadium bills.

It was the first injection of raw politics into a refreshingly bipartisan debate. Rep. Brad Finstad, R-New Ulm, was right to describe the senators' financing schemes as "pulled out of a back pocket in the ninth inning."

Committee Chairman Larry Pogemiller dislikes the commercialism of the Gophers plan and tried to yank away naming rights from TCF Bank (headed by a prominent Republican). Sen. Steve Kelley's point is more serious, but his timing is terrible. Instead of raising the sales tax in Hennepin County by a tiny amount to help build the Twins ballpark, he ponders a full half-cent increase metrowide. Thus, a ballpark roof could be added, a Vikings stadium built in Anoka County and important transit lines constructed, all financed more cheaply.

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