From the very beginning when he learned a new on-campus football stadium would become a reality, Gophers athletic director Joel Maturi has been mindful of his message.
Specifically, he says he never has guaranteed more victories, only a better game-day experience with the opening of TCF Bank Stadium. The game-day experience should boost the university's bottom line, although the controversial ban on alcohol and the slumping economy will significantly impact annual revenues.
In preparing their budget for the fiscal year, athletic department officials estimated in May that the move from the Metrodome to TCF Bank Stadium will generate about $2.5 million annually in additional revenue. However, that estimate came before the Legislature forced the university to make an all-or-nothing decision on alcohol sales.
The school chose to go alcohol-free, a decision that will cost the university at least $1 million annually and potentially more depending on fan fallout. The ban will extend this season to the clubrooms and suites at Williams and Mariucci arenas, which had been serving alcohol in those areas.
"There's really impact at three venues, and we haven't been able to quantify that,'' said Liz Eull, a senior associate athletic director in charge of the department's finances.
From a purely business standpoint, however, being back on campus still is better financially than in the Metrodome. But the alcohol issue put a dent in expectations and left Maturi with a significant hole in his budget. Eull said that her May budget took into account the economy, which school officials believe is the main reason that suites and indoor club seating failed to sell out.
Eull said her May budget forecast no additional sales in either area. However, since the alcohol ban, two of the sold suites were dropped, leaving the school with only 28 of its 37 suites sold. A small number of indoor club seats also were lost after the alcohol ban.
"We submitted a budget expecting we're going to have $1 million more," Maturi said. "We have a challenge. We're either going to have to raise more money or be careful how we spend or [get] a one-time assistance from campus or whatever. We have to account for that $1 million, which we have not yet done. ... I think in the end it was an easy decision [to eliminate alcohol], but it's going to be a costly one."
As a tenant of the Metrodome, the Gophers historically ranked near the bottom of the Big Ten in football revenue, well behind border rivals Iowa and Wisconsin. Maturi's hope is that the new stadium will enable the Gophers to move to the middle of the conference in football revenue.
In its budget, the athletic department estimated the stadium will generate about $7.7 million through premium (suites, loge boxes and club seats) and preferred seating. In all, the school projects total annual stadium revenues of $19.16 million. However, that does not account for any loss of revenue stemming from the alcohol ban, including a 10 percent price reduction for premium seats.
Annual expenses for TCF Bank Stadium will be $6.97 million, which is about $825,000 more than early projections. Eull said the increase primarily comes from game-day operations and stadium operations, which will cost $4.6 million combined annually.
"[The increase] is mostly security," Eull said. "The stadium -- at least for the foreseeable future --is going to have that 24/7 security, and that doesn't come cheap."
Even with that expense and factoring in the loss of $1 million because of the loss of alcohol sales, the stadium's operating income is projected at $11.2 million compared with roughly $9.7 in the final season at the Metrodome.
"My hope is that people ... will walk out of the stadium with a win, No. 1," Maturi said. "But if not a win, they're saying, 'I really enjoyed today. Minnesota is doing it right. They did this right.' That they have confidence in you and that we spent the money well."