As we reported last week, some members of the Virginia Senate want to prohibit Old Dominion University from using student fees or stadium revenues to build a proposed new 30,000-seat football stadium.
A provision of the Senate budget that allows ODU to move forward with a $1.5 million, year-long stadium study would force the university to use private money to construct the stadium. The House budget makes no such restriction.
But when all is said and done, it seems from everyone I’ve spoken to that the Senate will adopt the House language and that ODU’s stadium study will proceed.
Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam, who lives in Norfolk, said that once the partisan fight over expanding Medicaid is over, he’s certain the Senate adopt the House language.
The budget battle could linger for weeks or months, he said. That means ODU’s stadium study likely will be in limbo for a while.
Members of Norfolk’s delegation to the General Assembly say that no such condition has ever been placed on a state university seeking permission to build an athletic facility. An email I received on Monday from the University of Virginia would seem to bolster ODU’s case.
U.Va. has used student fees and ticket surcharges to help expand Scott Stadium, its 61,500-seat football stadium, and build an indoor football practice facility, according to a response to a Freedom of Information Act request I received from U.Va.’s Matthew Moynihan.
According to Moynihan, U.Va. used $487,041 in the fiscal year just ended in ticket surcharges to help fund an indoor practice facility. U.Va. also used $400,000 in student fees and $479,000 in ticket surcharges for the expansion to Scott Stadium.
The amounts are small when you consider that U.Va. repaid $9.2 million in athletic debt in that fiscal year. Most that money came from U.Va.’s athletic fundraising foundation, which raised $31.2 million last year, by far the largest amount of any state university.
Even so, it seems unlikely that the General Assembly will ask ODU to do something it has not asked U.Va. to do.
Most other Virginia public universities – including James Madison, Virginia Commonwealth University and Norfolk State, have used student fees and ticket revenues to help build athletic facilities.
Sen. Tommy Norment, the Senate Republican leader from James City County, said he isn’t responsible for the Senate budget amendment. But he agrees that ODU should be forced to us only private money for a stadium.
He said building a new stadium and having a major college football program is fine, but just “let your world-class alumni pay for it.”
If you’re thinking that sounded like a shot at ODU, you’re not alone. Many people who posted comments on our story or on ODU Internet message boards said they were insulted by his comment, an apparent reference to the the university’s description of its faculty and facilities as “world-class.”
One person who posted a comment called it a “snide remark.”
I'll let others judge Norment's remarks. However, in the end, his comments and this impasse likely will turn out to be nothing but a hiccup for ODU.
This story will take a long time to play out. Once ODU receives permission to hire a consultant, it will take at least 90 days to advertise and hire a firm. The resulting study could take up to a year.
That means it likely will be mid to late 2015 before we know what kind of stadium will replace Foreman Field, and how ODU intends to pay for it.