Second stadium pledge raises hopes but doesn’t end debate

A University alumnus has pledged another $1 million toward a Gophers-only stadium.Students disagree on whether an

T The identity of football stadium donor T. Denny Sanford, a St. Paul native and University alumnus, was revealed at a press conference at Gibson-Nagurski Football Complex on Friday morning.

The Star Tribune reported on an anonymous $35 million donation for a new on-campus football

stadium Thursday. It is the largest donation in the 152-year history of the University.

University President Bob Bruininks introduced Sanford in a prepared statement. Gophers football coach Glen Mason and athletics director Joel Maturi also spoke at the conference.

“This gift has the potential to transform the student experience and the campus for generations to come,” Bruininks said.

Bruininks said the gift is intended as a starting point and said much work has yet to be done.

“It’s the amount that we all believe is the sparkplug, the catalyst to go forward with this project,” Bruninks said.

Sanford said there was at least one additional $1 million donation from investment executive Dennis Mathisen and his wife Gail, and University officials said several people have approached with offers to donate.

Sanford’s gift is intended to cover the expenses of constructing the basic stadium and field, Sanford said. He said he hopes the stadium can be built in time for the first football game of the 2007 season.

Bruininks also introduced Dave Mona as campaign director for the football stadium drive.

Sanford, a Sioux Falls, S.D., resident and chairman of United National Bank Holding Co., grew up a block from Macalester College in St. Paul and graduated from St. Paul’s Central High School in 1954. He earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology from the University in 1958.

He made his millions as owner of Twin Cities-based Contech, which manufactured adhesives and coatings for ceilings. He sold the company in 1982 to buy United National Bank. His largest contract with Contech was for work on the World Trade Center in New York, which completed construction in 1973, he said.

He said he holds a lifelong passion for football and fondly remembers attending Gophers football games at Memorial Stadium with his dad as a youth.

He played high school football his first year at Minnehaha Academy and then transferred to Central High School. Because of eligibility rules for transfer students, Sanford could no longer play football in high school – though his passion for football remained.

“If you get a close look at him, you see football in his eyes,” Gophers football coach Glen Mason said.

He said admits to having “a lot of fun” in high school and said he graduated in the bottom 25th percentile of his high school graduating class.

At the press conference, Sanford’s eyes welled up with tears when he spoke of how the University changed his life.

Sanford said the turning point in his life was when, despite his poor grades, the University accepted him on academic probation.

At the University, Sanford joined the Chi Psi Fraternity and credits it for “positive peer pressure” in urging him to study and graduate in four years.

Sanford said he donated the money to give back to the University.

“I’m getting older and running out of runway, so to speak, and it’s time to give back,” he said.
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At a press conference to announce the name of the University’s $35 million donor Friday, University President Bob Bruininks told everyone who attended to grab a donation pledge card as they left.

Following donor T. Denny Sanford’s lead, several University officials said they are confident more alumni and corporations will contribute to a new football facility, but University students and faculty have mixed views on whether that will happen.

The University has not released firm estimates on what the new stadium would cost, but some in the University community doubt the

officials’ optimism that a stadium can be built without help from the state or University students.

Matthew Courtney, a junior math and music major, said even with Sanford’s donation, it is way too early for the University to say it is going to build a stadium.

“The amount yet to be raised is still too much,” he said.

Although Sanford’s donation might cover 30 percent of the stadium cost, Courtney said the University should wait for another $35 million in private donations before continuing plans for the stadium.

“It would prove (this donation) wasn’t a fluke,” he said.

Visiting civil engineering professor Greg Pasternack said with the University’s tight budget, he wonders what the impact will be of putting donations toward new athletics facilities rather than toward items more students use.

“What’s that going to come from?” Pasternack said. It is likely athletic donations will take money away from other University needs, he said.

At the University of California-Davis, where Pasternack used to teach, a donor gave $30 million to a new arts facility. But after fund-raising failed to raise enough to build the facility, students voted to pay for the remaining costs, he said.

Football fans are not the only group excited by the prospect of a stadium. The marching band was pumped up last week just talking about the traditions the band had when the Gophers played at Memorial Stadium, said Sarah Bradley, a first-year marching band member.

They repeated stories they had heard about how the band marched down University Avenue on game days with cheering fans along the roadsides, Bradley said. She said it will be an improvement from playing at the Metrodome.

“It’d give us a lot more motivation and energy,” she said.

Right now, the band practices at three different facilities, all of which have different markings to guide marchers.

Bradley said a new facility would help the marching band and improve games, but if students are stuck with part of the bill – as they were with Coffman Union’s renovations – students would be upset.

Some say an on-campus stadium will boost attendance for games, but Kory Jenkins, a first-year astrophysics student, said he does not agree.

“Location doesn’t affect who goes to games,” Jenkins said.

But Kelly Monahan, a communication studies senior who has only gone to three games, said she does not attend the games because many of her friends hate going to the Metrodome.

“It totally takes away from the support the football team is getting,” she said. She would probably go to more games if there were a stadium on campus, she said.

She said if she were assessed a small fee to build a stadium, it would be worth it to have an energetic atmosphere on campus.
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