There is still a long ways to go before the Minnesota Gophers and their facilities find competitive balance amongst a “market” of programs that is ever trending toward all things extravagant and costly.
But today could mark a very important step toward closing that gap and luring more elite players to consider maroon and gold.
This afternoon, Gophers athletic director Norwood Teague will present the long-awaited master facilities plan to the University of Minnesota Board of Regents, unveiling the university’s long-term vision for all of the school’s athletics.
A basketball practice facility is expected to be one of the main pieces of the project, and it could include improvements to the football, wrestling and women’s gymnastics facilities – among others – as well. Projects could be staggered across a 10-year period.
Currently, there is still a lot we don’t know about what will be unveiled, including the timeline, locations and priorities for building – although again, a basketball practice facility would probably hold some urgency. We also don’t know the total cost of the project, which could be somewhere in the $100 million range (Teague has stated it could be anywhere from $80 to $125 millions, though that was months ago and the scope could be larger/smaller now).
The basketball practice facility could cost anywhere from $7 or 8 million to $20 million. As a reference point, the Nebraska basketball facility – an extremely lush setup with iPads built into the lockers and flatscreen TVs stationed in the bathroom stalls -- that opened in 2011 cost $18.7. There could be financial differences, however, between building one in Minneapolis vs. Lincoln.
The overall funding mechanism is also unknown, including whether the Gophers have sought state loans and if there is a lead donor involved. The Minnesota athletic department embarked on a series of tours across the state in May and June to shake hands and fundraise.
Teague has said he wants the basketball practice facility to include two courts (one for the men’s team and one for the women’s) on opposite ends of the building, as well as a sports medicine center, a players’ lounge, a weight room, meeting room equipped for film work and perhaps offices.
Basketball practice facilities have almost become a rite of passage in the world of big time basketball programs. With the elite programs continually making their own versions glitzier and more convenient for young and impressionable players, trying to recruit without one is becoming more and more of a challenge. The Gophers’ men’s and women’s teams currently practice in Williams Arena, where they share a court with each other and a number of other programs, leaving players inclined to shoot in their free time to often seek out courts at Bierman or off campus. Right now, Minnesota and Northwestern are the only Big Ten programs without a basketball practice facility. The Wildcats, however, are currently in the middle of building a critical $220-million football-and-yoga structure (Note: there is some facetiousness to that last sentence. But the release does include the word “yoga”).
The planning stage has taken longer than initially expected. The university began searching for a planning firm – eventually landing on POPULOUS, the company that designed Target Field – in September and pushed back the master plan unveiling date from January to April previously. Now here we are in July, later than expected but ready for some solid answers today.
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