Donor’s pledge restarts stadium funding efforts

News of an anonymous donor offering the University $35 million for construction of an on-campus football stadium caused several individuals to offer more donations, a University athletics department official said.

The Star Tribune reported Thursday an anonymous donor is offering $35 million toward a Gophers-only campus football stadium.

Several University officials would not confirm the multimillion-dollar offer Thursday; however, the possible large financial contribution jump-started stadium talk.

Athletics director Joel Maturi said people have approached him recently with offers to donate.

“If we can finance this with private dollars Ö that’s a win-win situation for us,” Maturi said.

Football boosters in the Goal Line Club plan to contribute thousands of dollars toward a new stadium, executive director Mark Williams said.

“Guys want to get involved today. This kind of stuff is going to pique a lot of interest,” Williams said.

With many former players now members of the club, Williams said, new stadium talk will spark interest in the booster club, which might increase donations.

In an effort to combat financial shortfalls, the University administration instituted a moratorium in April 2002 blocking any fund-raising or planning for new athletics facilities.

In July, Maturi asked the Board of Regents to consider lifting the moratorium, but officials have not yet restarted discussions on the issue.

“Whether now is the time is yet to be determined,” he said.

Margaret Carlson, University Alumni Association executive director, said alumni have been waiting for an opportunity to give money toward an on-campus stadium.

The same people who shed tears when Memorial Stadium was torn down will lead the fund-raising campaign, Carlson said.

She added that last winter, alumni – who have entered McNamara alumni center to stand beneath the restored Memorial Stadium archway – said, “Count me in, count me in” repeatedly.

Building a stadium would have primarily come from private donations, Maturi said. However, the stadium’s multibillion-dollar price tag would make raising the entire amount difficult, he said.

The possibility of building an on-campus stadium began last year, when the University discussed a joint-use facility with the Minnesota Vikings.

The University discussed sharing a new stadium on campus with the Minnesota Vikings last year; however, both sides could not agree on several issues.

The joint-use stadium estimations valued the project at approximately $500 million. However, Maturi said a Gophers-only facility would not be as complex or expensive.

University chief financial officer Richard Pfutzenreuter said no firm dollar figures have been placed on building a Gophers-only stadium.

Pfutzenreuter said several components must be known before the University will have a firm estimate including stadium cost, street and parking infrastructure changes, construction costs and possible stadium amenities.

The Gophers football team is not the only University athletics team seeking a new home.

Baseball coach John Anderson said he hopes a new baseball diamond can soon be constructed to replace Siebert Field.

If a new football facility brings more revenue to the University – and helps the baseball team’s finances – he said he would support the move.

If the moratorium is lifted, Anderson said, he hopes the University raises money for more than just a football stadium. He envisions developing land near Mariucci Arena for a baseball stadium, intramural facilities and other programs.

If seeking private money, the University should ask for donations for projects other than a football stadium, Anderson said. Otherwise, asking the public to support a football stadium alone will likely limit who he can get support from for a new baseball stadium, Anderson said.

“You tend to go back to the same people over and over,” he said.

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