Alumni association to donate $1 million for football stadium

Stadium donations total $37 million, and University officials said the institution cannot afford additional debt to pay for it.

As momentum for building a Gophers-only stadium continues to grow, major donations are slowly coming in.

The latest donor is the University Alumni Association’s national board.

The group voted Saturday to donate $1 million toward a new football stadium while contributing another $500,000 to scholarships.

“A lot of alumni feel there should be a stadium back on campus,” said Dennis Schulstad, vice president of the association. “We’d like to prime the pump and find out if there is enough money among alumni and friends to support the stadium.”

While desire to build a stadium is high, stadium donations total $37 million, and University officials have said the institution cannot afford to take on additional debt to pay for it. There is no firm estimate on the cost to build a stadium.

T. Denny Sanford, a South Dakota-based bank owner, is still negotiating conditions on his $35 million gift that kick-started the stadium drive. Dennis and Gail Mathisen, the chairman and CEO of Marshall Banks, contributed $1 million toward the project.

Support for an on-campus stadium is not new for the association. It voted last year to support any on-campus stadium initiatives when the Minnesota Vikings and Gophers were talking about a joint-use stadium.

Alumni felt bringing football back to campus would enhance the college experience for current students.

“Very few moments or experiences in my life from a sports perspective were as magical as a football Saturday at the University of Minnesota when the stadium was on campus,” board member Edward Cracraft said. “The experience is completely lost with the Metrodome.”

The donation could be funded in part or in full by an endowment fund. The association can also use credit card revenue as a significant source of funding, Cracraft said.

Each purchase made on one of the credit cards the association offers through Bank One supports the association, according to its Web site.

“Personally, I think we should provide more funding,” Cracraft said. “There’s so much enthusiasm for this.”

Jerry Fischer, president of the University of Minnesota Foundation, said the alumni association’s donation will provide momentum to encourage more donations toward the stadium.

Fischer added that while the University of Minnesota Foundation is still devising strategies for a stadium fund-raising push, it might encourage donors to match gifts toward the stadium with gifts toward scholarships.

Athletics Director Joel Maturi said University officials will also seek matching scholarship donations for stadium gifts.

“It’s a great partnership,” Maturi said. “It’s something we’ve talked about, and something we’re going to encourage our donors to do.”

Maturi said while a new stadium will hopefully stand for a century, scholarships have the capability of continuing for even longer.