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DOMINGUEZ

Time for Stadium Backers to Put Up

April 22, 1999|FERNANDO DOMINGUEZ

To build or not to build, that was the question at Cal State Northridge.

The answer is now clear to interim Athletic Director Sam Jankovich and others at the school.

A proposed new football stadium, discussed and debated in meetings for several months, should go up on campus.

How did Jankovich come to that conclusion?

"The people of the Valley have spoken," he said.

Those good folks, 750 to be exact, spoke to Jankovich through a Valley-wide survey conducted in March and released this week.

It shows that two-thirds of the respondents support the construction of an 8,500-seat multipurpose stadium.

They wholeheartedly endorsed the controversial $8.5 million project when told it would be financed without taxpayer or university funds.

Which means Northridge has to start asking--actually, more like begging--for money, a standard routine for the Matadors. But more on that later.

First, let's consider the timing of the survey's release.

For months, a fact-finding committee held public forums on whether Northridge should build a new facility south of raggedy North Campus Stadium, destined for oblivion in the near future to make room for a biotechnical complex.

Homeowners near the proposed site staunchly oppose the project and voiced displeasure at some of the meetings. Now they claim the poll, conducted by Arnold Steinberg and Associates of Calabasas, is, in the words of one outspoken opposition leader, "a farce."

A report by the committee, with a final recommendation on the stadium's site, is expected this week.

Coincidence or calculated move?

Jankovich denied the decision to construct the stadium on campus was predetermined. He said the survey was on the level. But it is--hmmm, shall we say coincidental?--that the release of the poll was so closely tied to the release of the report.

In fact, the committee's public meetings really were feeble attempts to keep the restless neighbors calm because Northridge has virtually no option but to build a football stadium on campus, as required in the school's agreement with the Big Sky Conference.

Except for Portland State, which plays at a downtown stadium a few minutes from its campus, every Big Sky football team has an on-campus stadium and most are light years ahead of Northridge's facility.

To some extent, the Northridge homeowners who are screaming foul probably have a few valid points. But it's time they stopped crying and moaning.

The university needs a stadium and it has a perfectly logical site for it, only a few hundred yards from the current one.

All Northridge has to do is raise the cash, and Jankovich is wasting no time.

The former University of Miami athletic director, who helped raise millions of dollars for the Hurricanes, is using the survey as a handy fund-raising tool.

Jankovich said Northridge needs about $9 million to sustain its athletic program in 1999-2000 and is asking Valley residents and businesses for support. Add the estimated cost for a new stadium and the begging, er, pleading becomes substantial.

Fortunately for the Matadors, they already know the first 500 people to approach.

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