Governor signs bill for Gophers stadium

Gov. Tim Pawlenty and University President Robert Bruininks lead the crowd on May 24 in a university rouser during the funding bill signing ceremony for a Gophers football stadium.

Photo by Bill Hoffmann

ALUMNI CENTER, U OF M—Sitting where the east side of Memorial Stadium once stood, and across the street from the historic Station 19 building, Gov. Tim Pawlenty on May 24 signed the bill for the state portion of the $248 million University of Minnesota’s TCF Bank Stadium on-campus football stadium.

The 68.4-acre site for 50,000 seat, outdoor football stadium is now occupied by the Huron Boulevard parking lots, next to Mariucci and Williams arenas. The Gopher football team has played downtown at the Metrodome since the closing of Memorial Stadium in 1981.

The Memorial Stadium location, in an area still known as Stadium Village, is now home to the alumni center building, a parking ramp, the university aquatic center, an intercollegiate playing field, and a Radisson Hotel.

The crowd in the lobby of the McNamara Alumni Center included University President Robert Bruininks, state legislators including Sen. Larry Pogemiller; City Councilmember Diane Hofstede, neighborhood leaders, alumni association representatives, marching band members, students, staff, faculty, the Golden Goldie Gopher mascot, and the news media.

Bruininks thanked legislators for a bipartisan effort and vote. He said Governor Pawlenty “intervened numerous times to keep it on track.” Bruininks said Big 10 football has been a tradition at the university for 124 years.

Bruininks said the university still needed to raise tens of thousands of dollars toward its share of the stadium costs. He noted that the $35 million pledge by TCF Bank was the second largest collegiate commitment in history.

The president noted that Gov. Pawlenty earned his undergraduate degree in political science at the university and that he is an alum of the law school.

Gov. Pawlenty pointed out that he was an undergraduate junior at the university when the last game was played at Memorial Stadium on Nov. 21, 1981. The Badgers, unfortunately, came from behind, he recalled. Pawlenty said the new stadium is an opportunity to put together a showcase, and he said it was important to the quality of life in the state “The sports presence is very important,” he said.

The university plans to open the stadium on September 12, 2009, returning the team to campus from its home away from home at the Metrodome. First, an architectural firm is expected to be selected by June 1. Parking lot construction would start this summer. Reconstruction of 23rd Avenue/Sixth Street would be conducted in the summer and fall. Demolition of the ConAgra grain elevator would be conducted in fall and winter. Environmental remediation of the site would occur in winter, and reconstruction of University/Oak Street would occur next spring and summer. Stadium construction is expected to take two years, between summer 2007 and summer 2009.

Expansion to 80,000 seats

Designing the stadium to accommodate a potential future expansion to 80,000 seats was mentioned by two of the three finalist design firms during presentations the same day nearby at Ralph Rapson Hall. An audience of 80 to 100 was asked to rank the presentations. (Seating capacity at Memorial Stadium was listed between 51,000 and 57,000, with a peak crowd of 60,000.)

Station 19

A visual schematic of the stadium site by HNTB Architects at its presentation left out the historic, and contested, Station 19 building. The stadium legislation specifies that the university may not acquire the building for construction of the stadium and related infrastructure through eminent domain.

The schematic also leaves out the route of the long-planned Granary Parkway to the north of the stadium site.

The governor was expected to sign a funding bill for the state portion of a new stadium for the Minnesota Twins at a game on May 26.

last revised: August 9, 2006