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University football stadium estimate $220 million
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The stadium laid out in Monday's feasibility study is much smaller than some in the Big Ten. (Courtesy of University of Minnesota stadium committee)
University of Minnesota officials say they hope a new study showing the feasibility of a Gophers-only stadium on the Twin Cities campus will jumpstart a campaign to bring Gopher football back to campus. Financing the $220 million project will require private donations and possibly money from the state. But at least one state official says the university will have a hard time getting stadium funds in the upcoming legislative session.

Minneapolis, Minn. — University President Robert Bruininks told reporters and university officials he has long dreamed of bringing Gopher football back to campus.

"I want to be the first to report that a new, on-campus 50,000-seat stadium is feasible," he said.

It would be located on 32 acres on what is now the Huron parking lot, northeast of Williams and Mariucci arenas, and would be built with the colors and materials that blend in with the campus.

The study estimates the total cost at $222 million. That includes $180 million for construction, and another $42 million for moving and expanding roads, relocating traffic signals, and for environmental cleanup of the site.

And, Bruininks admits, it's still a few major steps from reality. "When the sun sets on this project, this could be a 'bridge too far.' This aspiration could conflict with other academic priorities at the Univesrity of Minnesota. We have to weigh all of those considerations."

The largest consideration is where the money will come from. Bruininks says private donations would comprise the bulk of the funding. It's uncertain whether a $35 million matching gift offer from alum T. Denny Sanford of South Dakota will help.

Sanford offered the money in September, but attached requirements including naming rights and payment schedules that the university says it can't agree to. Bruininks says talks with Sanford are ongoing. Sanford did not return MPR's phone call.

The alumni association has already pledged $1 million to the stadium, and student contributions would likely be a part of the proposed funding mix.

Supporters of an on-campus stadium say it's about more than playing football. They say an enhanced game-day experience and a sense of place and community are the intangible benefits of a stadium.

Minnesota Student Association President Eric Dyer says though the feasibility study says contributions from students would begin closer to the opening of the stadium in 2008, he thinks current students would be willing to contribute sooner rather than later.

"Students are going to have a hard time paying for something they're not going to see," according to Dyer. "But the real thing is: all of us have been enjoying facilities -- academic buildings, our union, Northrop -- that we never paid for, but somebody else before us never got to see what they paid for. It's just understanding the dynamics of it, and students know that. Students will figure that out very easily."

The university has not ruled out asking lawmakers for money in the upcoming bonding session.

State Commissioner of Finance Dan McElroy says a Gophers-only stadium request would be an "uphill battle."

McElroy is heading up a new stadium task force. He says the university may have to take a second look at a joint stadium with the Vikings. A joint stadium deal fell through last year when both the Vikings and U agreed a shared facility was not workable.

"I understand the love affair with the memories of Memorial Stadium. But I also am frustrated that we might have to build a $220 million college facility when there's also some desire among many in the community to build a professional stadium that may cost $350 or $400 million or a little more. And that gets the total football investment to be among the largest in the country, and I'm frustrated by that," McElroy said.

Bruininks says the university is not ruling out a shared stadium with the Vikings, but he says a Gophers-only stadium is the best option programmatically and financially for the university.

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