U facilities upgrade plan jump-started by $25M from Land O'Lakes

  • Article by: JASON GONZALEZ , Star Tribune
  • Updated: September 3, 2014 - 9:41 AM

Land O’Lakes donation for athletics and academics is one of largest corporate contributions to university.

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University of Minnesota Athletic Director Norwood Teague presented the much-awaited, proposed $190 million facilities plan in July 2013. A $25 million pledge from Arden Hills corporation Land O’Lakes will jumpstart the plan.

Photo: David Joles, Star Tribune

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The University of Minnesota has received a $25 million gift to fund a new athletic complex and academic programs.

Land O’Lakes Inc. and the Land O’Lakes Foundation pledged $21 million toward Gophers athletics, jump-starting a $190 million fundraising campaign that has been the focal point of athletic director Norwood Teague’s administration.

The university said it was one of the largest corporate contributions in its history.

The athletics pledge will be directed toward building a 60,000-square-foot Center for Excellence in the new athletics village, provide support for student-athlete activities and will support various athletic sponsorships and events. Land O’Lakes will receive naming rights to the complex.

The university and Land O’Lakes Foundation will formally announce the deal at a Wednesday afternoon news conference on the campus’ Northrop Mall.

This is one of the first-ever agreements between the university and a business partner to have a broad range of support for student-athletes and academic programs, including student scholarships, development within athletics, internship opportunities and faculty research, the school said in its release.

Nearly $4 million of the pledge will be spread among the Carlson School of Management, the College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences, and the College of Science and Engineering, with a small portion going to universitywide initiatives.

“This is what we have been waiting for,” Teague said “… Land O’Lakes has given us a huge shot in this campaign. Our coaches have known for a little while this was coming, and they are excited. They know this is the start of something good.”

Putting plans in motion

Former Gophers hockey player and North Stars executive Lou Nanne is leading the fundraising charge as chairman of the $190 million drive to upgrade sports facilities.

“This is a long step forward,” he said. “Minnesota corporations haven’t become partners with the university like they should, and for Land O’Lakes to do this — to lead the way — is a real good feather in its hat.”

University of Minnesota President Eric Kaler in a news release: “Meaningful partnerships with Minnesota businesses are vital to the success of our students and the state’s economic future. The 40-plus-year partnership between the U and Land O’Lakes is one in which we take great pride. This new commitment and innovative model of support will advance our teaching, student support, athletic programs and research mission, and will further position the U as a continued leader in addressing society’s pressing challenges.”

The ambitious athletic facilities master plan included two phases over an eight-year timeline. Phase one included a football training complex, a men’s and women’s basketball practice facility, an academic center, an athletic training table, a women’s gymnastics facility, an Olympic sport indoor practice facility, an outdoor Olympic sport track and a wrestling training facility, all housed on land currently used or occupied by the athletic department.

Land O’Lakes’ multimillion-dollar commitment should fulfill the objective of an academic center and training table.

The $15 million Center for Excellence will house academic, nutrition and leadership development programs for university students and student-athletes and is expected to open in the fall of 2016.

Land O’Lakes commitment

Approximately $6 million of the pledge will provide support for activities in the Center for Excellence, including the Student-Athlete Leadership Development Center and the Gopher Connect Program (which helps match student-athletes with Minnesota companies for jobs and training opportunities), and to various intercollegiate athletic sponsorships and events.

The $25 million will be given to the university between 2015 and 2024.

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