Donation hinges on stadium’s completion

Although T. Denny Sanford recently pledged $35 million toward a new campus football stadium, he said the University will not get a penny of the pledged amount until the facility is built.

His offer is so big, Sanford said, that he wants to see a completed stadium – not a half-done project – before he will give the money.

“I don’t want an empty shell that I paid a lot of money for,” the South Dakota-based bank owner said.

Completion of the project is not the only condition Sanford set on his donation.

At the donation announcement almost two weeks ago, Sanford said the University must raise another $35 million. University President Bob Bruininks said Sanford will also receive the naming rights to the new stadium.

Sanford said he expects the University to take on debt he will later pay off. The University has not had problems with his conditions, he said.

Sanford’s conditions should not impact the project’s potential, said Mike Halloran, the athletics department’s development director.

“You have to respect the donor’s wishes,” Halloran said. “That’s just the basics of how you do these things.”

Donors often outline the conditions of their gifts, Halloran said.

Sanford’s attorneys are still completing a formal version of the conditions of his gift, but the details were settled verbally with Bruininks earlier this year, Halloran said.

Donors should not question Sanford’s commitment to the project just because he has not given money yet, Athletics Director Joel Maturi said.

“I know he’s committed to giving the money,” he said.

Still planning to pay completely for the stadium with private funds, Maturi said construction on the facility will not start until all the money is raised.

“We’re not going to put a shovel in the ground until the money is raised,” he said.

Sanford said past University donors suggested he offer his gift with this stipulation.

“I’m not going to let this thing die,” Sanford said. “This is a very commonplace kind of thing.”

Regents hear about plan

Bruininks spoke to the Board of Regents about the stadium proposal Friday.

He said the University is currently analyzing the size, infrastructure needs, operational costs, possible revenue and alternate uses of a Gophers-only stadium.

Despite the speculations of several individuals, Bruininks said the cost of an on-campus stadium is still unknown. Many factors, including economic status, climate and building-material expenses, will contribute to the cost, he said.

Over the next month, University officials will speak with students, staff, faculty, alumni and others about the proposed stadium.

“This stadium is not going to run amok on its own,” Bruininks said.

If successful, he said, the stadium will provide a valued addition to the University’s football program.