Fundraising for stadium on track

by Karlee Weinmann

University officials said Wednesday that they’ve raised about half the money necessary for the $248 million on-campus stadium.

The University athletics department must raise about $45 million more in private contributions to avoid taking on debt for the project.

The state will pick up all but about $111 million of the stadium cost, $86 million of which the University plans to raise privately. So far, it’s been able to raise about $20 million for stadium construction in addition to $21 million from the TCF Bank naming rights deal.

That deal, inked in April, will give a total of

$35 million to the University during 25 years in exchange for stadium naming rights and other perks.

A small committee within the athletics department is working according to a “sophisticated” fundraising timeline that stipulates benchmark monetary goals, said Associate Athletics Director Mike Halloran, who is affiliated with the project.

The department hasn’t publicly released the timeline, but Halloran said efforts are paralleling projected totals.

The fundraising campaign is in its early phases, primarily targeting “leadership donors,” he said.

“We’re calling on individuals and corporations who we feel have a passion for this University and this project,” Halloran said.

These donors, corporations and individuals that pledged $1 million or more to the facility generated nearly $20 million since TCF Bank’s initial commitment. Best Buy recently increased its commitment to $3 million, according to a University release.

Donations have been steady since the Legislature accepted the financial arrangement in May, Halloran said.

“We’re moving positively and rapidly,” he said. “We’ve been very well-received.”

New corporate donors were announced at last month’s groundbreaking and already-named benefactors were honored by “Back to Campus” co-chairs John and Nancy Lindahl.

“New corporate gifts and TCF are opening more doors for us,” Nancy Lindahl said in an earlier interview. “Corporations need to be part of this formula.”

After the “leadership donor phase,” the University will launch a grassroots fundraising initiative sending volunteers across the state to parlay enthusiasm for the stadium into fiscal support.

Fundraising should be complete by the end of 2007 if donations continue following criteria set by the timeline. The stadium is slated to open fall 2009.

University Chief Financial Officer Richard Pfutzenreuter said while the timeline projects a 2007 finish, the athletics department could work to the wire.

“They’ll have until close to the stadium’s opening to finish fundraising,” he said. “They’ve essentially got three years to raise (the money).”

Pfutzenreuter also explained how money is spent over the course of a large-scale construction project like the stadium. He said construction will not result in significant spending until next year.

Likening the spending to a bell curve, Pfutzenreuter said outward cash flow is minimal in the project’s inaugural year. In year two, “big money will be going out the door,” which will gradually taper off throughout the third year, he said.

If necessary, Pfutzenreuter said, a fourth year could be added to the project’s financial blueprint to pay bills.

Ultimately, if the athletics department falls short in terms of fundraising, it will need to find a way to pick up the tab.

“At the end of the day, whatever the athletics department doesn’t raise, they’ll be responsible for finding an alternate solution,” Pfutzenreuter said.

He said academic departments face the same fundraising protocol for their own projects.

So far, the project has encountered few snags, and University officials as well as those heading fundraising efforts are optimistic.

“We’re not turning back on this project,” Pfutzenreuter said. “This project is going to happen.”