Minnesota’s master planning project is coming to a close, but the biggest pieces of the process are still ahead, Gophers athletic director Norwood Teague told me over the phone on Thursday.
At this point, POPULOUS – the firm the university hired to create a master facilites blueprint – has completed all of the interviews (with staff, coaches and others involved with the U) that are necessary when considering such major projects and moves like these, and the two biggest pieces remaining are the spacing issues and the financial estimates, which should wrap up in the next couple of months.
As for the coveted basketball practice facility, that remains one of the main priorities of the plan. In terms of securing funding, Teague says he feels very confident.
“I think we’ll be in good shape as it relates to hoops,” Teague said. “In our case, as I’ve said before, it’s just a real need. Many things are wants – that’s a need for us. That’s something we have to have for a number of different reasons.”
- The entire planning process should be fully completed in mid January to February, Teague said. At that point, the university will have a solid concept of how much everything will cost and where different facilities will go.
- At this point, the university has no total estimate for how much the entire project will cost.
- Teague said he feels good about the fundraising possibilities for a hoops facility, although he wouldn’t single out any donors that could lead the fundraising for the project. At this point, the university has mostly just strategized about who to contact and where the interest is, and any contact has been extremely preliminary in nature.
- Teague’s No. 1 choice for the location of the practice facility would be at the Bierman Athletic Complex, which is being strongly considered. That scenario might require some re-shuffling of what is currently there. Those specifics will be determined soon.
- Said Teague of the Bierman choice: “If we do that, it will make us much more efficient as an organization, much more student-athlete friendly and that will keep as many of their activities in one location and that is huge. I’ve been in other departments where things are very spread out and that gets challenging. Some departments have to do that, but it just forces the student athlete to cart themselves all over campus for training table, for practice, for games. If you put as much as you can in one place, that really helps.”
- If the practice facility DOESN’T go at Bierman, the lot behind Williams Arena would be the other consideration, Teague said.
- Donor T. Denny Sanford – the name that always comes up – is more likely to be heavily involved in the football side, not the basketball side.
- Other items that will be involved in the master plan include: a football building (offices, weight room, training room), a new indoor football facility (“Because our current indoor facility is just maxed out” with many sports using it, Teague said), a women’s gymnastics facility, a wrestling facility of its own (or an area within Bierman) and an Academic Center for the players that would also include a training table and dining area.
- The university hopes to execute the entire plan over five to seven years, with dictated priorities obviously happening sooner.
- After the master planning process is completed, Teague will move into full fundraising mode, a process that will continuous through the five to seven years, he said.
- Before Teague came to Minnesota, the university hired a consultant to look into the fundraising potential of the area. The results, Teague said, came back “very positive” at that time. That, of course, makes us wonder why this hasn’t happened sooner -- but maybe Teague will prove to be the key to unlocking support.