The University of Minnesota Board of Regents’ approval vote needed to break ground on the Gophers’ $190 million athletics village will be delayed again — at least until October — Regents Chair Dean Johnson told the Star Tribune on Tuesday.
An informational meeting for the university facilities committee will be held Sept. 10, and on Oct. 9 the regents “hope to take a vote on the athletics village, which would include a plan for the track [complex],” Johnson said.
“There are many reasons for that [delay], and all good reasons,” Johnson added. “No. 1, it’s a very visible program and we have to do it right. No. 2, we have to make sure the appropriate financing is in place. No. 3, that the actual facility will meet the competitive needs for our student-athletes. No. 4, this building will be closely watched.”
The university, amid an ongoing federal gender-equity investigation, is working to find a new home for its track and field programs. Track and field is the largest women’s sport on campus, accounting for 45 percent of the female athlete participants in Minnesota’s gender-equity reporting. The current track would be demolished to make room for the athletics village complex, a collection of practice, training and student-athlete academic buildings that would replace the dated sports facilities near Dinkytown.
Johnson said there are “a number of options” being considered for a track and field complex.
“I’m hopeful here in the next 30 days for a decision,” he said.
The regent’s vote on the project originally was scheduled for the June meeting before being pushed back in early June to the September schedule. Speculation that the vote would be delayed yet again escalated after former athletic director Norwood Teague resigned Aug. 7 when two university officials accused him of sexual harassment.
Johnson said Tuesday he has heard from donors who have remained committed to the project. “It’s not about an individual,” he said, “it’s about an institution.”
University President Eric Kaler has said this month the fundraising and planning for the athletics village still are on track. Officials have said $70 million has been raised toward the project.
Football coach Jerry Kill has been vocal about the need to break ground as soon as possible — he said earlier this year that he hoped construction would be underway by August — but he showed patience for the process earlier this month.
“You’re only going to build it once,” Kill said on Aug 14. “You can’t go to the Board [of Regents] after they approve it and say we need to add this or that. There are some things we have to move around to work within our budget.”