Athletics complex approved

University leaders say the Athletes Village project will help recruit future athletes.

University Interim Athletics Director Beth Goetz presents the proposed schematic design for the new Athletes Village at a meeting of the Facilities, Planning & Operations Committee of the Board of Regents on Thursday, October 8.

Alex Tuthill-Preus

University Interim Athletics Director Beth Goetz presents the proposed schematic design for the new Athletes Village at a meeting of the Facilities, Planning & Operations Committee of the Board of Regents on Thursday, October 8.

Brian Edwards

After months of discussion, the University of Minnesota’s Board of Regents approved the $166 million Athletes Village project on Friday
 
The approval of the 320,000-square-foot complex — which will include training, educational and dining facilities for the University’s 725 student-athletes — comes after funding shortfalls and Title IX investigations caused delays.
 
While regents expressed confidence in the project, some say they still have questions about future additions and ensuring equal access for all athletes.  
 
University President Eric Kaler said at a Board of Regents meeting Thursday that the facility will help the school better recruit athletes and compete against rival Big Ten schools.
 
“We do compete against other schools who can better prepare their athletes than we can in our facilities,” he said at the meeting. 
 
Facility overview
 
The compound, which will be located on the site of the Gibson-Nagurski Football Complex on the East Bank campus, will include an indoor football practice facility, a training center and basketball courts. 
 
The existing football complex will be incorporated into the facility. Some regents said they’d like to renovate the complex. 
 
A football linemen’s facility, a skyway connecting buildings and the replacement of the roof on Gibson-Nagurski are all potential future additions, said Suzanne Smith, assistant vice president of capital planning and project management, at Thursday’s meeting. 
 
Athletes will also have access to a nutritional facility, study areas and laundry facilities, among other features, Smith said at the meeting. Coaches’ offices will also be located in the building, she said.
 
Regent Peggy Lucas said at Thursday’s meeting both of the gymnastics teams need new facilities and expressed interest in possibly using Gibson-Nagurski.
 
Regent Thomas Devine said the board’s interest in the project has been linked to improving the athletics program, but he said educational benefits of the building were equally important.
 
“We are consistently at the top of the Big Ten in [student-athlete] academics,” he said, adding that most University athletes do not end up as professional athletes, and the tutoring and study facilities in the building will ensure the student-athletes are prepared for their life after sports.
 
Paying for the project
 
So far, private donors have pledged $76.5 million for the project. Regents approved financing the remaining $89.5 million  through accruing debt after construction begins. 
 
That number could be lower depending on whether the school finds donors before taking on the debt, Chief Financial Officer Richard Pfutzenreuter told the Minnesota Daily last week. 
 
Still, the board expressed confidence in the school’s ability to raise the rest of the funds and expects the building to eventually be fully funded by donations.
 
“We can all rest assured that President Kaler and the administration will do their very best to maximize the revenue opportunities,” Regent David McMillan said at Friday’s board meeting. 
 
Title IX concerns
 
A complaint that the University discriminated against women prompted a federal investigation earlier this year that delayed the project. 
 
The United States Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights is expected to release its initial results this winter regarding whether the University violated Title IX, which prohibits gender-based discrimination.
 
Among the concerns was the displacement of the men and women’s track teams. The investigation is also looking into whether the University has failed to provide women with the same opportunities as men in areas including equipment, scheduling and athletic scholarships.
 
A separate review commissioned by the University of the school’s Title IX compliance — which was summarized orally for regents earlier this month — hinted at potential areas of concern like access to showers, athletic trainers and track facilities.  
 
As a solution, regents set aside $20 million for a new track facility to be located on the East Bank. A specific location and cost has yet to be determined. 
 
In the meantime, the men and women’s track teams will practice at Hamline University or Concordia University in St. Paul.
 
The athletics facility may require additional changes once the results of the federal investigation is complete, Kaler said at the meeting.