The University of Minnesota has cleared the way to start construction on a $166 million Athletes Village expected to open by January 2018.
On Friday, the Board of Regents unanimously approved the project, which had been a top priority of football coach Jerry Kill and the athletics department.
University officials maintain that the complex was needed to replace overcrowded and outdated practice and training facilities, which they say undermined efforts to recruit players and field winning teams.
“This gives them the opportunity to compete in the Big Ten … at the national level,” said Dean Johnson, the board chairman.
The complex, which will be funded by donors and the athletics department, will feature state-of-the art facilities for Gophers football and basketball. It will also include a new academic and dining center for all intercollegiate athletes, about 725 students in 25 sports.
So far, the university has raised less than half the funds, about $76.5 million, from donors. Officials say the rest of the construction costs will be financed through long-term debt, and that the athletics department will cover those costs.
The vote on the project had been delayed for months, in part because of gender equity concerns involving its impact on the track program. Nearly half of the U’s female athletes are on teams that use the track, which will be demolished to make way for the Athletes Village. After a federal complaint accused the athletics department of violating Title IX gender equity laws, the U announced plans in September to build a new competitive track on the main campus. The plan approved by the regents Friday sets aside $20 million in “debt capacity” to cover the new track and related gender-equity issues.
Beth Goetz, the interim athletic director, said she hopes the project will break ground soon. “We’ll be meeting shortly to figure out the details,” she said. “It will be a quick turnaround.”