Sioux Community gives $12.5 million gift to U

In addition to the stadium gift, $2.5 million will go toward a scholarship fund.

Jake Grovum

With the construction site of TCF Bank Stadium less than a block away, officials from the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community announced Friday at Williams Arena its intention to donate $12.5 million to the University.

The tribe will donate $10 million toward the construction of the stadium, while $2.5 million will go toward a scholarship endowment.

The $10 million gift is the largest ever received by Gopher athletics.

“It’s one of those so-called win-wins,” Stanley Crooks, chairman of the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community, said. “It’s good for our tribe, the tribes of Minnesota, and it’s good for the citizens in Minnesota.”

The tribe operates Mystic Lake Casino, but Crooks said the donation is considered to come from tribal revenues, not directly from the casino.

“It’s amateur sports,” he said. “We support amateur sports throughout the state and I thought this was a great opportunity for the tribe.”

The tribe will have the naming and design rights to the west plaza – the largest and most central in the stadium – but when the University came to Crooks, Crooks said he wasn’t immediately on board with the plan.

At first, Crooks said he wasn’t convinced that the tribe should make a donation.

“The opportunity for the matching scholarship, well, that got my attention.”

The $2.5 million the tribe donated for the scholarship endowment will be matched by the University, setting up a $5 million fund.

“To me that’s the real story here,” University President Bob Bruininks said. “This is a gift to help us with the stadium, combined with an academic gift.”

The scholarship will give preference to American Indian students, but is not intended strictly for them, officials said.

The gift to stadium fundraising comes at a time when efforts had slowed, athletics director Joel Maturi said.

“This is a situation where you need some good stories to tell,” he said. “To be able to have this again, to visibly show people we’re doing this for the right reasons, people care – I think it will be another jump start.”

The University now has $13 million of its $86 million goal for private gifts and sponsorships left to raise.

The donation was praised by University and tribal officials alike as not just a gift to the athletics department, but an academic gift as well.

“This gift, to me, is very important and very symbolic,” Bruininks said. “It helps us build the stadium, but what they want to do is establish a plaza that reminds people of the rich history and the cultural tradition in our state.”

The cultural impact of the plaza design, Crooks said, should help remind those passing through of the state’s often-forgotten American Indian heritage.

“Some people don’t realize there are Native Americans in Minnesota,” he said. “I just don’t feel like there’s enough Native American history, certainly Dakota history, being provided to our young people.”

Saint Anthony Falls is historically Dakota territory, Crooks added.

While the donation will not specifically go toward any classroom programs, the plaza was touted as a place where those attending games can learn more about the Dakota people.

“I thought this would be a great venue,” Crooks said. “To let the many people that will pass through here, educate them more about not only our tribe in particular, the Dakota people, but all tribes in Minnesota.”

Gopher football head coach Tim Brewster echoed the sentiment of those who praised the gift.

“It’s wonderful, absolutely wonderful,” he said. “The University’s going to match the scholarship gift and it’s going to allow students to get one of the best educations in the world.”

While the tribe donates money to a number of institutions, the gift is the largest tribal donation ever made to a single beneficiary.