The Old Ball Game

Pawlenty helps revive campaigns for new stadiums

 

Last, but certainly not least, is the potential construction of a new on-campus football stadium for the Gophers. It's not surprising that McElroy, Pawlenty's choice to lead the screening committee, continues to promote the idea of a shared stadium for the Vikings and Gophers--or that University President Bruininks is resistant.

"If the U, as a public institution, asks for money for a stadium, are legislators really going to give it to McCombs instead?" Marty asks. With a smaller price tag for its facility than what the Vikings would require and with the prospect of at least indirect public ownership of a Gophers stadium as further political leavening, the University may indeed have the best shot at getting a stadium bill passed at the Capitol next session.

The U has expressed a willingness to try to fund their stadium primarily with private donations. T. Denny Sanford, the South Dakota banker who greased the wheels on a new U stadium push earlier this year, has since downplayed his original proposal. Sanford would fork over the $35 million, he said, only after the complex was completed. And it's not clear whether Sanford actually has the money to make good on his pledge.

The University's hopes may stop at the governor's office anyway. Given his past antipathy toward adequately funding things like education and health care, it is difficult to imagine Pawlenty following through on a meaningful state contribution to a stadium. And he did sign a "no new taxes" pledge that specifically states that any new public monies expended have to come out of other existing resources. In other words, Pawlenty may not be serious about ponying up for a stadium for anyone.

More likely, he's courting the support of stadium boosters, knowing that he can blame local governments for not having enough revenue to deliver a stadium package. Or three.

"It's going to be interesting," Marty says. "Anything's possible, I guess, but I'd say at most [boosters] might be able to sucker the people into building two stadiums. But not three."

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