Officials: Stadium plan must progress

Than Tibbetts

Still without a lead donor, University officials’ plans to open the 2008 season in a new on-campus stadium might be growing less likely.

To meet that goal, Athletics Director Joel Maturi said, the project needs to start moving forward soon.

“We’re cutting perilously close to the deadline,” he said.

Maturi said University officials have met with several donors, some of whom are offering “significant” amounts of money.

“We’ve had a few personal commitments to the stadium, but nothing is ready to be announced publicly,” he said. “We still need major naming gifts.”

Funding sources for the project are still being worked out.

Officials will try again to get state money to contribute to the project when the Legislature meets in 2005. One bill requests the state pay 40 percent of the total cost, with the

University funding the remainder.

T. Denny Sanford, a South Dakota banker and University alumnus, who originally gave the project a swift kick by announcing a $35 million gift, said he is not contributing to the project.

He’s moved on, he said.

“I’ve gone off into supporting small-children’s causes,” Sanford said. “I’ve supported a children’s abuse center, a children’s hospital.”

But since the formal deal with Sanford fell through last winter, University officials have continued searching for other donors.

“We tried our best to encourage (Sanford’s) gift within the parameters that were acceptable to the president and the Board of Regents,” said Mark Rotenberg, University general counsel.

Sanford wanted permanent naming rights, a condition the University did not accept, Rotenberg said.

Even though Sanford wasn’t able to help out financially, Maturi said, the possible donor played a significant role in starting the stadium campaign.

“I will forever be indebted to Denny Sanford if we ever get a stadium,” Maturi said. “What Denny did do, for sure, is to energize the whole thought process.”

Sanford’s proposed donation would have covered approximately 15 percent of the projected $222 million cost for a stadium.

Seeking state money was not part of the initial plan, Sanford said.

“This is exactly what the ‘U’ was trying to prevent early on,” he said.

Sanford said he had hoped his gift would spur other large donations.

Whatever happens to the project, Sanford said he still cares.

“My heart is still with the ‘U,’ ” he said.