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Regents committee approves $15M for athletic facility design

The $190 million athletic facilities plan took another step forward Thursday as a Board of Regents committee approved an amendment to allot the athletics department $15 million for schematic design of the Athletes Village.

The money is already part of the athletics department's fundraising budget for the project, which now totals $70 million according to athletics director Norwood Teague. The capital budget amendment will still need to be passed by the full Board of Regents at Friday's meeting.

Athletes Village will include the new football and basketball development centers, an indoor football practice facility and a center for excellence that includes academic and nutrition areas. The cluster — slated to coexist with Bierman Athletic Building — constitutes $150 million of the $190 million project.

There is no concrete date in mind for the beginning of construction, but the athletics department would like to see it begin by the start of the fall semester, according to senior associate athletics director for strategic communications Chris Werle.

"We’re going through schematic design and all the processes but we haven’t set a date to begin," Werle said. "We’re still hoping to break ground [at the] end of the summer. That’s our goal."

For that to happen, 80 percent of the project's funding must already be raised prior to approval from the University's chief financial officer and president, the Star Tribune reported.

After the meeting, Teague said he was very comfortable with the department's fundraising pace.

"Our fundraising is way ahead of schedule," Teague said. "I’ve been thrilled with the money that we’ve brought in thus far, and I’m thrilled with the prospects we have on our timeline."

Regent Dean Johnson praised Teague for the progress he has made already as athletics director.

“I know this has not been an easy mountain to climb,” Johnson said. “And yet, I believe on behalf of the University and the state of Minnesota, this is much needed."

In his presentation, Teague referenced recent athletic facility projects by the University of Wisconsin and University of Iowa as examples of how behind Minnesota is in the Big Ten.

Regent Thomas Devine and Regent Linda Cohen both spoke about the importance of completing the facilities project.

“And I think certainly when we look at the arms race that we’re in … this is an important step for the university," Devine said.

Cohen, a lifelong Gophers fan, referenced a statement from University of Minnesota president Eric Kaler for the project's rationale.

"'If we’re going to be in the Big Ten athletically, then we need to be in the Big Ten and really compete,'” Cohen said.

The other $40 million

The plan's remaining $40 million will likely be put toward other projects, potentially including refurbishment of the Gibson-Nagurski complex or an indoor golf facility for the men's and women's golf teams, Teague said. Upgrades for the wrestling and women's gymnastics teams are also options.

A new track for the track and field teams is also in the mix for the $40 million, as the Bierman track will be removed for construction on the village, which prompted a gender equity investigation of the University by the Office of Civil Rights.

In the mean time, the athletics department is in the process of finding an interim practice location for the track and field teams, according to Pam Wheelock, vice president for university services.

Teague would not disclose the possible locations, but did say the athletics department will "find a good place for [the track and field teams]."

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