Gophers stadium bill heads to House floor

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The University has cleared another legislative hurdle, bringing an on-campus stadium one step closer to realization, University officials and stadium supporters said today.

The House Ways and Means Committee, the last House committee to review the bill, passed it this morning.

The bill will go to House floor tomorrow, according to Senator Geoff Michel, R-Edina, who co-authored the Senate version of the bill.

“It’s been an exciting two weeks for the University stadium effort. I think we’re getting closer to the end zone,” he said.

Hopes remain high for the University as well. University Director of Athletics Joel Maturi said the department is excited by the news from the Capitol.

“This is something that we think is very much needed for the University, for our athletics program and, we’d like to think, for the state,” he said.

The bill passed by a strong voice vote, according to Loren Solberg, DFL-Grand Rapids, a ranking committee member.

Both Maturi and Sen. Michel said the outcome of a whole House vote will hopefully be in the University’s favor.

“I think there is a wide bipartisan majority (supporting the bill). I think people believe that this is a win for the University in that the University would get a new stadium on campus and that it’s a win for the state,” said Sen. Michel.

The biggest change made to the bill since its March 13 introduction is an exchange with the state of almost 3,000 acres of UMore Park in Rosemount in return for more state funding.

“There is a little concern (in the House) about the things in the land deal, the covenants that are there,” said Rep. Solberg.

Sen. Michel, however, said the state will benefit in the long run from the acquisition of this land.

“State taxpayers (win) because we would now have access to a new state reserve and this wonderful piece of land down in Dakota County,” he said.

If the bill passes the House, attention will be directed towards the Senate, where two versions are waiting to be heard in the Finance Committee.

The bill passing by a large margin in the House would be a good sign for reception on the Senate floor, said Maturi.

“(Legislators) represent people in the state of Minnesota. The House has one constituency and the Senate has the same- although different geographic boundaries,” Maturi said.

Under the current version of the bill, the state is slated to pay $9.4 million a year for 25 years. The payments would begin next year and would help finance the $248 million open-air stadium.

TCF Bank would still have naming rights to the stadium under the House proposal, which differs from a Senate bill seeking to eliminate corporate naming rights.

The movement around stadium proposals in the legislature this week brings the building closer to construction, Sen. Michel said.

“I would say, in football terms, that we are first-and-goal and we’re going to get this in the end zone.”

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