Donor hopes fund raising begins by October

Branden Peterson

T. Denny Sanford, the donor who gave the University $35 million toward a new, Gophers-only football stadium, said he is not one to act slowly.

Sanford said he hopes a formal fund-raising campaign for a new stadium will start by Oct. 1. He also said donations totaling $70 million would be enough to build a 40,000-seat stadium, although he hopes to raise more.

Donors have already pledged $36 million toward a stadium, and

Sanford hopes the stadium can be finished by September 2007.

University officials have not released an estimated cost for the project. Officials said there is too much left to do at this point.

Sanford said he is 90 percent sure the University will not approach the state for additional funds and even more sure students will be asked to contribute.

“We don’t want to go to the Legislature … It would bog the process down,” he said.

Sanford said he hopes a new stadium will offer an identity much like Memorial Stadium did for decades.

“The way I’m positioning this, this stadium and the football program is really the identity of the University,” he said. “(The University) is just a place of education, versus something (people) can rally around.”

Sanford said he wants to be involved in every part of the process leading up to a new stadium. He traveled earlier this week with University officials to several football stadiums.

Sanford, Athletics Director Joel Maturi, University of Minnesota Foundation President Gerald Fisher and other officials flew to the Georgia Institute of Technology, Kansas State University, Southern Methodist University, the University of Louisville and the University of Connecticut.

Dave Mona, the project’s director and broadcaster for Gophers football, said organizers are talking every hour of every day, but most of the work is left to be done.

Even though Sanford will return to South Dakota next week, he plans to stay active in the project’s development.

“He’s not going to write a check and go away,” Mona said.

Sanford is helping to devise a fund-raising campaign and the stadium designs, Mona said.

Sanford, who announced his donation last week, is a University alumnus and banker with First National Bank in South Dakota.

“We’re going to wind up with a first-class stadium that can hold 50,000 or so seats,” he said.

If a stadium is built with 40,000 seats, University officials said the building’s design would allow for future additions.