Architects selected for Gopher football stadium

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After announcing the firm that will design the Gopher football on campus, members of the University of Minnesota Board of Regents asked at their June 8 meeting about a new neighborhood mitigation fund tied to the project, how the stadium might be expanded, and fundraising.

The announcement of the design firm follows legislation signed by the governor in May providing 55 percent of the project’s estimated $248.7 million cost. Funding from student fees, as well as from alumni and other private sources, is expected to provide the rest.

The 50,000-seat, on-campus stadium is proposed on a 68.4-acre “Stadium District” site next to Mariucci and Williams arenas at 4th and Oak Streets SE.

A preliminary stadium design and details on construction costs will be presented to the regents in October or November, Kathy O’Brien, vice president for University Services, told the regents at the work session.

Construction would start in July 2007 and be ready for the 2009 football season. The team has played downtown in the Metrodome since 1982.

O’Brien said one reason university staff chose HOK Sport of Kansas City, Mo., was because it considered costs of materials. HOK is considering, for instance, purchasing some materials early, in recognition of volatile markets, she said. Next spring, the regents will get a “guaranteed maximum price,” O’Brien said.

O’Brien noted that HOK will collaborate with Architectural Alliance, a Minneapolis-based architecture and interior design firm whose projects include the Guthrie Theater, the Minneapolis Central Library and the Minnesota Children’s Museum.

“We believe HOK is an ideal firm to help create a facility that renews our Big Ten football traditions and meshes with the campus and our neighborhoods,” Robert Bruininks, university president, said in an announcement. “We’re excited to have them on board to help build the first new stadium in our conference in nearly 50 years.”.

Good Neighbor Fund

Regents asked how the $1.5 million neighborhood stadium mitigation fund might be used. Neighborhood groups near campus lobbied legislators to include a good neighbor fund in the state bonding bill for the stadium.

The fund could be used, for instance, if business owners near the stadium construction site felt business was suffering. They could use some funds to advertise, Richard Pfutzenreuter, vice president and chief financial officer, observed.

O’Brien said funds might be used for youth programs, or traffic diverters, and similar efforts. The principle involved is, “We will be a good neighbor,” she said. Bruininks said, “Our relationship to the neighbors is a very important part of our relationships.”

Responding to regents’ questions, O’Brien explained if the stadium were expanded in the future, a second deck would be added. Earlier, she noted that if the university wanted to increase the size of the stadium, the university would be required to update the Environmental Impact Statement and to raise more funds. The university has asked that the stadium be designed for potential future expansion to 80,000 seats.

Stadium District

O’Brien presented an architectural concept of the future stadium and land northeast of the stadium developed with bioscience buildings. “We’re not just building a building,” she said. “We’re building a campus.” Calling it the Stadium District. She said the proposed district resembles the Georgia Tech Campus in Atlanta.

HOK has designed high-profile sports facilities such as Camden Yards in Baltimore, Jacobs Field in Cleveland, and the new Arizona Cardinals stadium in Phoenix. The company has also worked on collegiate football facility designs at Penn State, Georgia Tech and others. HOK’s design contract with the university was reported at $5.5 millionl the same firm may be in the running to design the $522 million Twins baseball stadium downtown.

The team for the university project includes Hines, based in Houston, one of the largest private real estate organizations in the world. Its local holdings include the Wells Fargo Tower and U.S. Bank Plaza, O’Brien said. SRF Consulting Inc. is working on road and infrastructure design.

The 2003 stadium feasibility study envisioned 39 suites, 750 loge seats, 300 indoor club seats, 1,250 outdoor club seats, and a 30,000 square foot indoor club. The study also called for a merchandise store, a Hall of Fame, marching band space and concessions.

Pfutzenreuter said 80.3 percent of the $248.7 million stadium cost is secured. “Fund raising is going reasonably well,” he said. Short-term financing may be required, he acknowledged. Regents asked about contingency funds.

Regent David Metzen thanked President Bruininks for pursuing the stadium project. “We’re here today because of Bob Bruininks’ leadership. We thank you, Mr. President,” he said.

Bruininks said the stadium, “should be a gathering place and a home for the extended community of Minnesota.” He added enthusiastically, “It’s a home for the Marching Band.”

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