House clears U of M stadium bill

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Gophers stadium plans are one step closer to the end zone. The Minnesota House approved the bill Thursday night, 103 to 30.
Richard Pfutzenreuter, University chief financial officer and vice president, was at the Capitol for the proceedings. He said the University is thrilled with the magnitude of support at the Capitol for an on-campus stadium.

“A hundred and three votes and only 30 no votes is a clear signal that legislators had heard from the citizens of Minnesota that it was time to return Gopher football back to campus,” Pfutzenreuter said.

Although more than 10 amendments were proposed during the session, University Athletics Director Joel Maturi said none was a surprise or setback to stadium plans.

“We feel, from day one, we’ve had a good plan, and the adjustments that have been made have been made for a reason,” Maturi said.

Some lawmakers voiced specific concerns surrounding the bill. Among those voices was Rep. Phyllis Kahn, DFL-Minneapolis, whose district includes the University’s Minneapolis campus.

One of two amendments proposed by Kahn aimed at protecting historic former firehouse Station 19.

Although this amendment was not adopted and University officials said they plan to respect Station 19’s wishes, Kahn said she is concerned with University-neighborhood relations.

“The Board of Regents is just showing their muscle and bullying the poor neighborhood groups,” Kahn said during floor discussion.

Another criticism of University relations came from Rep. Paul Marquart, DFL-Dilworth.

“The University needs to get its priorities in order,” he said. “The University gets creative when it needs $9.4 million for a football stadium, but when it’s agriculture or keeping student fees down, they can’t find a solution.”

The next stop is the state Senate.

Pfutzenreuter said the strong House vote leaves stadium supporters and University officials optimistic about the bill’s reception in the Senate.

“I spent 10 years working here (at the Capitol) and the House of Representatives, with 134 members. Having 103 of them vote in favor of a stadium and returning Gopher football is a tremendous signal.”

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