MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — The University of Minnesota will receive $25 million in donations and sponsorships from Land O’Lakes Inc. to support academic and athletic programs.

The Arden Hills-based agricultural cooperative that focuses on the dairy industry announced the commitment Tuesday. The university was to formally announce the donation at a press conference Wednesday.

A $21 million pledge from the company, which jump-starts a $190 million fundraising campaign spearheaded by athletic director Norwood Teague, will fund a new 60,000-square-foot athletic center, the Star Tribune reported (http://strib.mn/1lzvRFB ). Land O’Lakes will have naming rights and it’s expected to open in 2016.

“This is what we have been waiting for,” Teague said “. Land O’Lakes has given us a huge shot in this campaign. Our coaches have known for a little while this was coming, and they are excited. They know this is the start of something good.”

Nearly $4 million will fund programs in some of the university’s departments and colleges, including the food and agriculture college, management school, and science and engineering college. The money will be provided from 2015 through 2024, according to the company.

The Land O’Lakes agreement marks one of the first times a business partner has shown such support for athletic and academic programs at the University of Minnesota.

“This is a long step forward,” said Lou Nanne, a former Gophers hockey player and North Stars executive who’s chairing the $190 million athletic drive. “Minnesota corporations haven’t become partners with the university like they should, and for Land O’Lakes to do this — to lead the way — is a real good feather in its hat.”

University of Minnesota President Eric Kaler said partnerships with local businesses are vital for students’ success and for the state’s economy.

“The 40-plus-year partnership between the U and Land O’Lakes is one in which we take great pride,” he said. “This new commitment and innovative model of support will advance our teaching, student support, athletic programs and research mission, and will further position the (University of Minnesota) as a continued leader in addressing society’s pressing challenges.”

Christopher Policinski, president and CEO of Land O’Lakes Inc., said in a news release that the $25 million donation will further strengthen the company’s investment in the pipeline of talent coming from the university.

“We are pleased to be partnering with the (University of Minnesota) to help create a holistic student experience that equips graduates for a competitive marketplace, but also inspires the well-rounded talent necessary to meet the challenge of feeding a growing global population,” he said. “We look forward to continuing our long-standing relationship and building a strategic partnership with this great institution.”

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