The bride, Samantha Jones, lined up at quarterback in her wedding dress at TCF Bank Stadium and led her guests down the field for a touchdown. She paid $5,700 to hold her wedding at the stadium, and an extra $400 to hire Goldy Gopher, the University of Minnesota’s mascot.
Sherwin Williams has held large trade shows at the school’s football stadium and had Goldy Gopher pose alongside a large truck with the company logo. “They bought a bunch of paint from us when they built it,” said Rob Montgomery, a Sherwin Williams district manager.
General Mills used the stadium for movie nights, with the feature film showing on the large scoreboard.
In an attempt to find revenue in unusual places, the university has been renting out its four-year-old football stadium for everything from weddings and bar mitzvahs to Tennant Company meetings and Comcast awards banquets. The president’s suite, overlooking the field and featuring a built-in bar, rents for $600 for six hours.
Wedding and bar mitzvah packages also offer an opportunity to rent the school’s spirit squad and marching band, with a brass quintet renting from $150 to $300 an hour.
Though the proceeds so far are modest — roughly a half-million dollars annually — school officials are trying to emulate other universities.
At Ohio State, the school charges $3,000 for a one-hour ceremony at the stadium’s iconic flagpole and makes school mascot Brutus available, but prohibits fog machines in the stadium.
But the University of Minnesota has collected at least $471,619 in stadium rentals this fiscal year, outdistancing the $317,895 collected by Ohio State.
While other stadiums locally have joined the trend — the Minnesota Twins’ Target Field has seven weddings scheduled at the ballpark this year — having a public university rent its new stadium for corporate events can be ticklish.
“You get to rent Goldy? Yeah, that’s great,” Bill Gleason, an associate professor at the university’s medical school, said sarcastically.
Gleason, a faculty member since 1992, has been an outspoken critic of the school’s corporate relationships.
“It just doesn’t smell right,” he added. Gleason said he believes the rental money, which goes to the school’s athletic budget, should go to the university’s general fund or to reduce student fees.
And a prom, too
Scott Ellison, the university’s associate athletic director, defended the policy, and said the school rents other campus sports arenas and was only doing what others have done.
“I just came from a Big Ten event managers’ meeting, [and] there were a lot of people talking about rental events — the weddings, the corporate meetings,” he said.
Of the General Mills movie nights, Ellison said that “they bring their folks in, and they have a movie night on the field. [We] use the scoreboard, yep. It’s pretty cool.” The event drew 2,000 employees and family members, who watched the movie, “Despicable Me.”
“It’s like a big, drive-in — only you don’t drive in,” said Ellison. “They pay full rent.”
Ellison said he was not sure how often the school’s spirit squad and marching band had been rented for events, though the school’s mascot remained a popular rental. “Goldy, for sure,” he said. “Goldy is really popular.”
Meanwhile, the university’s website promoting stadium rentals features a picture of Goldy Gopher, riding a three-wheeled motorized bike, leading a crowd of men and women attending a conference onto the football field.
In other photos, the stadium’s giant scoreboard showed a maroon-and-gold greeting that read “University of Minnesota Welcomes Upsher-Smith Laboratories.” The pharmaceutical company is based in Maple Grove. An accompanying photo showed a crowd of people holding small, blue footballs and wearing white football jerseys, with the company name on the front.
Event planner Susan Diamond said she is helping NAIOP, a commercial real estate development association, plan an annual awards gala at the football stadium in September. The event, she said, is expected to draw 350 attendees and local hockey legend Lou Nanne will be the keynote speaker. “People love to come there,” she said of the school’s football stadium. “It works well for corporate; it works well for weddings.”
University officials said Le Center High School has held its prom at the stadium, and TCF Bank — which has a naming rights agreement for the football stadium — held a “meeting and sales rally” there in June 2012.
Standing in her wedding dress, Lauren Albrecht lined up for a 23-yard field goal at the stadium when she was married In October 2011. “I hit the ground, and stubbed my toe pretty badly,” she said. “It was pretty embarrassing.” Her new husband, Jake, posed for pictures with his groomsmen in the Gophers football locker room.
A photo montage of the couple was shown on the scoreboard — an option the school typically provides for $500.
“It was just pretty cool to see your whole life in pictures up on this huge scoreboard,” Jake Albrecht added.
Mike Kaszuba • 612-673-4388