Hidden behind Gophers athletics headquarters is a bustling construction site where, on Monday, dozens of workers wearing hard hats and bright vests were scattered across the future site of the Athletes Village, slowly piecing together the $166 million project.
Nine months after the university broke ground on the project at the Bierman complex, the progress is becoming much more visible. Footings for the Land O’Lakes Center for Excellence have been placed and the elevator shafts are rising into the sky.
Most mornings Gophers Athletic Director Mark Coyle walks by the busy site on his way to the office. He is eager to show off the progress to student-athletes and recruits when school starts next month.
“I’m very appreciative of everyone that is working on it,” he said Monday. “What’s exciting is as we get ready to start our fall sports … our current student-athletes can see it and … the future recruits can see what’s happening and what the future of Gopher athletics is.”
Coyle has been on the job for two months and spent much of that time trying to build relationships with alumni, boosters and corporate leaders. The university had raised less than half of the funding, about $76.5 million, at groundbreaking. Coyle said Monday the athletic department had surpassed the amount raised for TCF Bank Stadium, which was an $86 million goal, but he wouldn’t give an exact dollar amount.
The original fundraising goal for the Athletes Village was $190 million.
“The two months I’ve been here I’ve spent a lot of time with our Golden Gopher fund people and having different breakfast, lunch and dinner meetings, and spending time with people really trying to tell them the impact they have on our program when they invest in our program,” Coyle said.
“We’re very pleased with the amount of contact we’ve had with people and I’m very pleased with the response from people. I think people want to compete at a high level here. … There is no question this Athletes Village will have a huge impact on our teams.”
Gophers women’s basketball coach Marlene Stollings tweeted a photo of the construction site in July with the caption “Progress on the athletics village is GopeRific!!!” Coyle and associate athletic director of facilities Scott Ellison, who is overseeing the project, are energized by this sort of excitement from coaches and student-athletes.
“Everything is coming up out of the ground slowly now,” Ellison said. “We’ve got the footings going in and pretty soon we’ll start to see some steel and some structure going up. By November we should have our Center for Excellence pretty much framed in by then, so it should be pretty exciting.”
The project is on schedule and on budget, Ellison added.
Coyle has experienced the immediate benefits of new facilities during his stops at Boise State and Syracuse and expects the Gophers to benefit the same way. He got a glimpse of the plans for Minnesota’s Athletes Village within his first days on the job and was quickly impressed.
“If I was an 18-year-old kid, I’d say ‘Wow,’ ” he said. “It’s going to be neat and going to have an impact an all of our programs and all of our student-athletes.”