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UVSC students may face a hit for stadium

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Utah Valley State College students just went from having no risk to potentially bearing some of the financial burden to fund a new baseball stadium.

Prior to a vote Friday by a State Board of Regents committee to approve bonding for the stadium, officials learned that Wall Street needed better proof of collateral than just hearing that private donors have "pledged" most of the $3.8 million cost of the stadium.

The committee voted to approve the bonding measure but the item was pulled from the agenda before the whole board was able to vote because of lingering questions.

UVSC President William Sederburg said the school would have to fall back on student fees for funding only if "all hell broke loose" and money from private donors suddenly became scarce.

But Sederburg's explanation didn't sit well with legislative fiscal analyst Kevin Walthers, who expressed concern about schools sidestepping the legislative process to fund new buildings. Walthers was surprised how the project went from being funded completely by private donations to suddenly involving students.

"I don't understand how that happened," he said.

Walthers also said that if UVSC had to use student fees, it would essentially translate into a state obligation down the line. Because of that, Walthers added, the state should have been involved in the financing equation sooner than this week.

UVSC is able, however, to skirt the legislative process by going through the Utah County Municipal Building Authority to bond for the project.

UVSC would make the annual payments and, in effect, be leasing the stadium from Utah County.

Commissioner of Higher Education Rich Kendell said that in order to secure the best rate on the bonds, student fees had to be put up as a possible funding mechanism if donations fall through.

"It's a credit issue," Kendell said.

Regent David Grant said that he worries the school will be "indenturing" students by putting a lien on fees in the event donated money isn't there. He was the lone dissenting vote among committee members.

Sederburg said the decision Friday to delay a vote of the entire board only means that regents and others will get more education on the new funding structure for the stadium. The new funding plan, he said, will remain intact.

UVSC officials said Friday that at least $3.2 million is expected to come from donors. Money will also come from a 10-year lease the minor league team Provo Angels has with the school. The stadium is slated to open this fall and by 2005 the Angels should be playing in the new stadium, which has seating for more than 4,000 fans.

E-mail: sspeckman@desnews.com