Gopher Stadium Waits on Legislature’s Special Session

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A study of ground and water pollution at the site proposed for a 50,000-seat Gopher football stadium on the University of Minnesota campus continues even though action on a stadium funding bill waits for a possible special legislative session.

Members of the university’s Stadium Area Advisory Group were told in August that university and alumni officials continue to lobby for a special session. A proposed bonding bill for the $235 million stadium calls for a 60/40 split between the university and the state.

Asked about increased costs with the delay in stadium funding approval, Brian Swanson, university project coordinator for the stadium, said the university had not yet had decided to delay the planned stadium opening one year to 2009. However, “The stadium hasn’t gotten any cheaper,” Swanson noted.

Phil Esten of the university’s intercollegiate athletics department told the group the university maintains contact with TCF Bank officials “so we don’t have to renegotiate.” The bank’s 25-year, $35 million corporate financial sponsorship toward construction of a Gopher football stadium on the East Bank campus is part of a $78 million package. The sponsorship agreement reportedly would expire Dec. 31.

Contrary to expectations that the stadium site is heavily polluted by industrial uses, initial testing found soil contamination was at “fairly low levels,” J. Joseph Otte of Wenck Associates, Inc., engineering and environmental consulting services, told the group.

The finding is “to the university’s advantage,” Otte said. Swanson, the project coordinator for the stadium, said, however, “I don’t think we’ve saved any money yet.”

A university report said results of the study would be useful for a stadium or academic building. The site is the Huron Boulevard Parking Complex, across Oak Street from the Williams and Mariucci arenas. The Marcy-Holmes, Como and Prospect Park neighborhoods border the site.

Otte said his company will present a feasibility study and a preliminary cleanup plan by October. It will outline costs for alternative cleanup plans. They will also examine risk criteria of each level of cleanup, he said, based on one in 100,000 population risks for excess cancer deaths and risks for asthma. The company will solicit feedback from the community about the acceptable risks, he said.

A 30-day public comment period about the draft environmental impact statement is expected to be held starting in early October. The Advisory Group is tentatively scheduled to meet on Oct. 17. A public meeting on the environmental statement will likely be held the last week of October. The statement is expected to go the university regents in February.

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