"Fool me once -- shame on you" the old saying goes, "Fool me twice -- shame on me."
Those thoughts come to mind as the University of Minnesota enters into negotiations this fall with the Minnesota Vikings on a potential deal for a new on-campus football stadium.
Ruminations about crisp autumn afternoons and a spirited college football crowd on the Minneapolis campus have struck us recently and not just because the Golden Gophers are 4-0 heading into their Big Ten schedule.
Whether Minnesota taxpayers like football or loath it, experts agree that it's the big dog on the block when it comes to raising money for collegiate sports. In Minnesota, already basketball and hockey contribute to the pool of money for athletics but they're currently generating as much money as they can. Only Minnesota football has a significant revenue potential that's under-utilized.
Moving the football stadium off-campus and making the football team third-string tenants behind the Vikings and Twins was one of the Board of Regents dumbest moves in the past 50 years. The decision not only deprived fans of much of the color and pageantry of college football it cut off several precious revenue streams for university athletics. Fees for parking, concessions, luxury suites and facility rental routinely bolster other colleges' athletic departments.
This time the regents are entering negotiations with the mindset that they intend to design, own and operate the football stadium. Interim University President Robert Bruininks admits the 'U' was taken to the cleaners in the early 1980s when it agreed to play its games in the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome. The university gets no money from advertising, parking and only limited revenue from concessions.
University ownership of the stadium makes sense, particularly since public dollars are likely going to be part of the equation. While professional teams have been known to break leases or fold, we know the University of Minnesota isn't going anywhere.
The regents should stick to their tough negotiating stance as they prepare to put a package together for the Legislature to someday consider.
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