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Finances for new stadium will not impact student tuition

March 26, 2010

UW-River Falls is set to begin the construction of a $4 million facility on the south end of campus this year. The facility will include new lighting, new field turf, a new press box area, as well as specialty box seating for alumni.

Student concern over the financial funding of the stadium has been eased in the past year. Funding for the stadium has been provided by two primary sources: The First National Bank of River Falls and the student body.

“The students funded $500,000 for the project,” Rick Bowen, athletic director of the University, said. “This will allow for the football field to be used for IM purposes.”

The student-funded $500,000 did not come in one piece but rather in small portions designed to build a sufficient total over time.

“The student senate created a bond of $500,000,” Larry Testa, who handles student affairs at the University, said. “We have based our projections on a 20 year basis.”

The Student Senate proposed the bond two years ago, setting specific limitations and rules regarding the boundaries of the bond.

“There were clauses stating that the student funding would not exceed 15 percent of the total project and that the amount of student money must not exceed $525,000,” Tyler Halverson, allocable fee appropriation board chair, said.

The student bond is set up to minimally impact tuition fees and other expenses on campus. A yearly charge of $4 was implemented at the beginning of the 2008-2009 school year. The fee increases annually by $4.

“Students should not be worried about an impact on their tuition fees,” Testa said.

The amount raised by the student body is only one-eighth of the estimated total needed for the completion of the stadium. With such a significant amount of money still missing, one of the leading donors in the River Falls area stepped up.

The David Smith family, owners of the First National Bank of River Falls, contributed a lead gift of $500,000 to the University. The bank, which has a mission statement that pledges to “improve our communities through service and involvement,” is heavily involved in the River Falls community.

“If we have an employer or customer, we give to them,” said Sandy Wurm, bank director and member of the Smith family, said.

With a steady financial plan in place, and growing support from the River Falls community, student concerns over distribution of financial assets has eased.

“I am more OK with it now than I was when I first heard about it,” Jen Sandberg, freshman, said. “It’s better than some of the charges and fees that they put on us.”

Still, some students do not agree with the fee, saying it is something that they knew nothing about and that they feel offended by being charged for something that they are not involved in.

“I think it’s sort of ridiculous that the student body as a whole is being charged for something that they may not have an interest in,” Jake Cabak, freshman, said. “We already pay enough as it is.”

University officials justify the re-construction of the stadium by explaining the past, as well as their hopes for the future.

“If one will look at the other stadiums in the WIAC, (Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference) they have all made significant upgrades in the past 10 years,” Bowen said. “Ramer Field has been basically untouched since 1967.”

A closer look at the facilities around the WIAC reveal just how far behind the times UWRF is. The instillation of new field turf will place UWRF in the same ranks as UW-Eau Claire, UW-Stout, UW-Whitewater and other schools around the conference.

The re-construction of the stadium will be a slow process, however the value the project provides will justify the cost and the wait.

“It is a necessary project if we want to give our students the opportunity they deserve to be competitive in the strongest league in the country,” Bowen said. “Our students benefit, the community will benefit and the athletic program will benefit. “We’ve got to find a way to complete this project.”