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Camden Yards' architect chosen for U stadium

  • Article by: Mike Kaszuba
  • Star Tribune
  • June 8, 2006 - 11:32 PM

The University of Minnesota's march toward building a new on-campus football stadium continued Thursday, with the school announcing it has hired an architect to design the first new football facility in the Big Ten in 46 years.

Fresh off receiving legislative approval for the $248.7 million project, the school's Board of Regents said it had chosen HOK Sport of Kansas City for a $5.5 million design contract that would create a stadium with a "traditional collegiate look and feel."

The company, which is also vying to design a new stadium in downtown Minneapolis for the Minnesota Twins, has a long résumé of stadium design and was the architect for Camden Yards in Baltimore that in the early 1990s heralded a new era of Major League Baseball stadiums that are a throwback to vintage stadiums.

"This is a very exciting moment," university President Robert Bruininks said as the regents made the announcement.

Though university officials spent much of Thursday talking about the stadium's momentum, they also acknowledged that the school still has to privately raise $48.9 million to complete the project.

In a worst-case scenario, said Richard Pfutzenreuter, the university's chief financial officer, the school might have to engage in short-term borrowing should the funds not be raised as construction proceeds.

"We're pretty confident that the cash is going to be here when we need it," he said of the remaining fundraising.

Bruininks agreed. "We will do everything possible," he said. "I don't want to minimize what it takes to raise $50 million as someone who does this everyday. That is a very, very tall bar to scale."

Traditional horseshoe

The 50,000-seat, horseshoe-shaped stadium, which will be built near Williams Arena, the university's basketball venue, is scheduled to open in 2009.

School officials said the stadium would be the first new football facility in the Big Ten since Indiana University opened its stadium in 1960, and would be one of just six college football stadiums with more than 50,000 seats built in the nation over the last half-century.

Bruininks also pledged that the university, should the stadium be expanded in the future, would not ask for more taxpayer help and would instead turn to private sources.

"We're not going back to taxpayers," he said.

Project synergy?

Thursday's stadium briefing also showed that the university's football stadium -- like the Twins stadium -- may be financially lucrative for some of the same development companies.

Twins President David St. Peter said that HOK Sport had a longstanding relationship with the team but that it was too early to tell whether the company would also be the architect for the $522 million stadium for the Twins, which was approved by the Legislature last month just hours after it gave the go-ahead to the university's stadium.

Scott Radecic, an HOK Sport senior principal, said the company also "definitely expects to be considered" for the Twins stadium.

The same synergy may also be occurring for Hines, a Houston-based development company. It is the largest private property owner in downtown Minneapolis and controls 16 acres immediately west of the Twins stadium site. The company is pushing ahead with plans for "Twinsville," a collection of residential units, retail shops and office space near the stadium.

On Thursday, university officials released details showing that Hines has been hired as the football stadium's project management company with an estimated $5 million contract.

Lawrence Peszek, a Hines vice president, said the company also hoped to be named as the project management company for the Twins stadium.

"We obviously would love to be involved in some type of role with the Twins stadium," Peszek said.

St. Peter agreed that Hines was seeking a large role not only with the development surrounding the Twins stadium, but also with the construction of the ballpark.

"They would love to see themselves kind of garner control of the entire project management," St. Peter said. "We certainly view that with an open mind."

Mike Kaszuba • 612-673-4388

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