U reveals Sanford’s stadium terms

Branden Peterson

Initial terms for T. Denny Sanford’s $35 million stadium pledge included that the stadium be named after him and that he withhold his donation until 18 months after the stadium is completed, according to a term sheet the University released this week.

Sanford and University officials announced his gift in a Sept. 5 news conference. At the time, Sanford said University President Bob Bruininks had agreed to his gift’s terms shortly before the press conference.

Sanford continues to negotiate terms of his donation with University attorneys. Bruininks and Sanford said in prepared statements Wednesday that the gift has changed from the first conditions.

Sanford is chairman of United National Holding Corp., which operates two banks, Premier Bankcard and First Premier Bank. He is also chairman of First Premier Capital Leasing in Edina, Minn.

In later news reports, Sanford said he would not give money until after the facility was completed, in hopes of preventing a half-completed stadium that looked like an “empty shell.”

The original term sheet merely shows the intent to give, according to the document. While beginning work on a formal contract with Sanford, Bruininks called the donor’s terms “unacceptable.”

The process with Sanford has been very unusual, said University of Minnesota Foundation spokeswoman Martha Douglas, referring to how he made a term sheet.

Normally, Douglas said, the foundation works out a gift agreement with interested donors, describing the donation’s size and payment schedule, and designating how gifts will be used.

At the press conference announcing the pledge, Bruininks stated his desire to build the complex with only private gifts. University administrators, who are still working out a funding strategy, have not said whether they will seek corporate support.

University chief financial officer Richard Pfutzenreuter was attending Board of Regents meetings at the Morris campus and could not be reached for comment.

Bruce Johnson, a stadium finance expert and professor at Centre College in Danville, Ky., said the $35 million amount of Sanford’s gift is “in the ballpark” of other stadium-naming right gifts nationally.

Corporate names on arenas and stadiums is a growing trend, and if Sanford gets his name on the facility, it should not limit other corporations’ opportunities to sponsor different aspects of the stadium, Johnson said. Companies have bought naming rights to everything from the student section of the bleachers to the locker rooms, he said.