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U of Minn. board votes to cut jobs, ban alcohol at stadium

MINNEAPOLIS -- The University of Minnesota's new stadium will be dry when it opens this fall, and in-state undergraduate students will see tuition increase by about 3.1 percent after a pair of votes by university regents on Wednesday.

The regents approved both a $2.98 billion budget proposed by university President Robert Bruininks and a plan to ban alcohol from the new on-campus TCF Stadium and the university's hockey arena.

Athletics Director Joel Maturi said he expected the ban will cost the university about $1 million a year because it will offer rebates to people who bought premium seats at the new football stadium and other arenas thinking they would be able to buy a drink.

It also reflects lower ticket prices in the future and expected cancelations of some ticket sales.

The alcohol ban came after the Legislature and Gov. Tim Pawlenty ruled that the school could sell alcohol stadium-wide, or not at all. The university had wanted to sell to alcohol only to those in premium seats and luxury boxes.

Lawmakers also nixed the idea of serving free alcohol to fans in premium seats.

The alcohol restrictions passed 10-2, with Regents Venora Hung and David Larson objecting. Both said they were worried about the financial impact, primarily because people who bought premium seats might now pull out of their deals.

"I am afraid this is going to have serious negative impact over time," Larson said, adding that he hoped the Legislature would soon reverse itself.

The ban won't change the rules for tailgating on university property announced earlier this year, said Garry Bowman, a spokesman for the athletic department. Fans will be allowed to drink their own alcohol in designated parking lots in accordance with state law, and a few other restrictions. For example, kegs and glass bottles will not be allowed.

Rep. Pat Garofalo, R-Farmington, said he would introduce a bill in 2010 to encourage the university to allow alcohol sales throughout the stadium by directing the profits toward a scholarship fund for disabled veterans.

"This seems like a commonsense way to help those who have served our country fund their college education," said Garofalo. "Plus, it gives the university the chance to stop acting like a bunch of fuddy-duddies."

The comparatively small hike in undergraduate tuition for Minnesota students came through the use of money from the federal stimulus package and other funds. It didn't reflect the overall health of the budget, which saw state aid drop by about $82 million.

About 1,240 university jobs disappear in the budget, which starts July 1, saving about $70 million. Before the cuts, the university employed about 18,500 people.

Most of the reductions are coming from leaving vacant jobs open and early retirements, although about 370 people will be laid off. Most of them have already been told. None are tenured professors.

Bruininks said protecting the work force was a top priority when he set the budget, which includes $90 million in budget cuts and reallocations. "I did not want to lay people off in this economy," he said after the meeting.

While the university will spend about $50 million of the $89 million in federal stimulus money it will get over two years to hold down tuition for in-state students, Bruininks said it isn't able to do the same for graduate and professional students, which includes those in the medical and law schools.