First steel installed at TCF stadium

University officials gathered Monday morning for what they call the latest step in TCF Bank Stadium construction “going vertical.”

Construction crews installed the first steel beam of what will become the stadium’s frame. The installation of the steel was praised as an important step in the construction process by project manager for M.A. Mortenson Co., Paul Kitching.

“This is basically the kickoff,” he said. “Now everyone’s going to basically see the building come out of the ground.”

Ten to 15 shipments of steel will arrive daily between now and late July.

The steel will shape the upper bowl of the stadium, luxury suites, press box structures and will also be used to support the stadium’s scoreboard.

Along with the steel frame, construction crews will begin work on the stadium’s enclosure and exterior wall in the next few months, Kitching said.

With the stadium’s opening set for Sept. 12, 2009, construction is on schedule and on budget, stadium project coordinator Brian Swanson said.

“Things are going remarkably well,” he said. “It’s just an exciting day.”

As construction moves forward, Swanson said the stadium will begin to take shape.

“We’ve been working out here for six months, but if you’ve been walking by or driving by, you haven’t been able to really see what’s going on,” he said. “Now every day, as people come to campus, they’ll be able to see the progress that’s being made.”

Fundraising for the $288.5 million stadium project is also continuing.

The stadium’s funding includes $86 million to be raised through donations and sponsorships. To date, officials have raised nearly $75 million toward that goal, about where officials expected to be at this point, athletics director Joel Maturi said.

“We obviously hope that all of it’s raised,” he said. “I think (the steel installation) is going to help fundraising as people see it becoming a reality.”

Athletics officials will continue phase two of fundraising, which seeks out six-figure gifts, Maturi said, for the next several months.

A grassroots phase, intended to gather smaller gifts from around the state, will begin this spring, he said.