Moten Brown halts plans for new sports facilities construction

Brad Unangst

Hoping to address some of the financial problems facing Gophers athletics, University Vice President Tonya Moten Brown placed Thursday a three-year moratorium on all new sports facility construction.

“We want (athletics’) focus to be on where their real priorities should be at this point,” Moten Brown said. “That’s on the operating side of the budget and on scholarships. It should not be right now on new facilities.”

But some coaches said their sports facilities are falling apart, and they say the moratorium could be debilitating.

Gophers men’s baseball coach John Anderson said Siebert Field – where the baseball team plays – is getting too old to meet his program’s needs. He said the University had been working with the team to plan a new facility.

“This program has earned a right to have a better facility because of its success,” Anderson said.

Wendy Davis, women’s rowing coach, said the team is currently operating out of a tent.

“I don’t know if (the administration) realizes what it’s like to
operate out of a tent in Minnesota in March and early April,” Davis said.

Both plans are on hold under the moratorium, which went into effect immediately after the merger of men’s and women’s athletics, Moten Brown said.

The halting of the plans was news to both coaches, who said they first heard of the moratorium during Brown’s press conference.

Anderson said a meeting was set up a few weeks ago with University officials about a new baseball facility. The meeting has not yet been cancelled, he said.

Davis said the women’s athletics administrators told her the team’s boathouse project was on hold, a decision she said Moten Brown has not explained to her.

“I don’t know what’s going on,” Davis said. “There’s just so much confusion, so I’m not going to push the panic button for a couple of months.”

The moratorium will not affect construction on the women’s hockey arena and men and women’s tennis facility, said Scott Ellison, University’s athletics facilities director.

Emergency maintenance to athletics facilities can also continue, Ellison said.

“They’ll let us spend money on keeping them safe and structurally sound and dry,” Ellison said.

The proposed Gophers/Vikings football stadium will also not be affected by the moratorium, Moten Brown said.

“The stadium is a University project, not an athletics project,” Brown said.

Under the proposal, the University would be responsible for constructing a $60 million parking structure attached to the stadium.

Anderson and Davis said the revenue brought in by the new stadium would help support their teams.

“If we’re going to prosper long term here, we have to have a football program and a stadium where we can recover the same level of revenue as other football programs,” Anderson said.

Putting a hold on construction of a new baseball stadium would show him where the University administration ranks the baseball program, he said.

“(The University) will have to decide what kind of baseball program they want and whether a new facility makes sense to the health and well-being of the baseball program,” Anderson said.

Davis said she sees it differently.

“I’m willing to play ball,” Davis said. “I just don’t know what the ball is.”