MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – Concerns about finances were not enough to stop the University of Minnesota from going ahead with a $166 million sports facility.
U of M officials say the Athletes Village will create a unified space for the entire athletic department.
The new facility will give student athletes space to practice as well as learn, something they currently don’t have.
It means the U of M will now have a facility that puts them in place to be competitive in the Big 10. Top officials say the new athletic village is crucial for recruitment.
After months of delays due to concerns about fundraising, the school’s Board of Regents voted in favor of a project that stands to help student athletes compete with the best in the country.
“This is going to mean so much to all of our 725 athletes, ” said interim athletic director Beth Goetz. “They are all going to see the benefits directly. It’s going to help them academically, athletically and, certainly, from a leadership perspective.”
The new Athletes Village will include three new buildings, two for football and one for men and women’s basketball. An academic center and dining facilities for all student athletes will also be on site.
Coaches says current practice and training facilities hurt recruiting because they are overcrowded and outdated.
“In recruiting, it’s all about a comparison to your peers in a lot of levels,” Goetz said.
She said that both academics and facilities are an important component of competing with Big 10 peers.
The new facility will cause the track facilities to be destroyed. More than half of the U’s female athletes train there.
The U of M says it will build a new competitive track on the East Bank campus. It hopes the track will resolve concerns of gender discrimination.
Basketball player Joey King says the new facility will improve all athletic programs.
“It’s a big-time step in the right direction for Gophers athletics as a whole,” he said. “It’s just something that’s going to help as a recruiting tool, and obviously it’s going to make our players better.”
Kaler says it could also lead to a big pay day for the university.
“I’d love us to get to a situation where the athletic department is a net contributor to the university budget, as it is in a few places in the country, Ohio State probably being the best example,” he said.
Money for the facility will come from donations, fundraising and borrowing. So far almost $80 million has been raised.
The university will borrow about $89 million, to be paid back by the athletic department. No money will come from the state or student tuition.
If donations continue to come in, the new facility should be completed by January 2018.