msu dome inside (copy)

A proposed MSU sports dome, which will house artificial turf the size of one and a half soccer fields, is expected to cost $5.7 million or less and open by Nov. 1. Rendering courtesy of MSU

MANKATO — Minnesota State University officials couldn't have asked for a better day to stand before their governing board and talk about the virtues of an indoor sports dome in a state with a sometimes-brutal winter climate.

But then the Minnesota State Board of Trustees decided it was too cold to meet this morning, postponing for a time MSU's dreams of building a $5.7 million inflatable dome in Mankato to give athletes a warm wintertime venue for sports practices.

The Minnesota State Board of Trustees meeting scheduled for today was postponed because of the record-threatening frigid weather enveloping the Upper Midwest.

Final approval for the sports bubble planned for Minnesota State University was expected after the proposal was reviewed by facilities and finance committees and voted on by the full board, which oversees Minnesota's system of state colleges and universities.

"Today's meetings were cancelled due to the weather," said Minnesota State Communications Director Doug Anderson this morning. "A future date will be scheduled to take up remaining agenda items."

Board approval is required for any large construction project on a state university campus, even if the state university system isn't being asked to pay for the project.

MSU's proposed sports dome would be self-financed with student fees and rental revenue from Mankato-area youth sports organizations, which are expected to use about a third of the dome's available hours.

But a portion of the up-front construction costs are to be covered with $2 million in unused bond proceeds controlled by the Board of Trustees, with dome revenue repaying those bonds over 10 years.

The board met Tuesday at the system's headquarters in St. Paul and initially adjusted today's schedule to complete scheduled work by noon — compressing the planned day-long series of meetings into the morning. But ultimately, the decision was made to postpone the second day of the monthly meetings completely.

Minnesota State University officials are hoping to begin construction on the 108,000-square-foot seasonal sports dome this summer with an anticipated completion date of Nov. 1.

The project is supported by university President Richard Davenport and received strong backing from students voting in a referendum last month to boost student fees over 10 years by up to $10 a semester to cover $2 million of the structure's cost.

The remaining financing would come from revenue from renting the dome — which would be the size of one and a half regulation soccer fields — to youth sports organizations from around the region.

The initial construction costs would be covered by $2 million in unused bonds sold by the state university system in 2015, which the Board of Trustees needs to allocate to the project, plus $3.7 million in university reserve funds.

Revenue from the student fees and rental charges would repay the bonds and restore the university reserve funds over the next decade. The rental charges and existing student activity fees would be used to cover operating costs and to set aside dollars for future replacement costs for the sports dome, according to MSU's proposal.

MSU officials are also in discussions with potential donors, according to a memo to the Board of Trustees: "There is a possibility of a third funding source from the philanthropic community that would reduce the university's capital contribution, but the commitment had not yet been formalized in time to be included in this Board report."

The dome is to be located along Monks Avenue just south of the university's primary parking lots in the southeast corner of the MSU campus.

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