The new University of Minnesota track and field complex will be built on the East Bank campus, central to most Gophers sports facilities, interim athletic director Beth Goetz said at Thursday’s Board of Regents meeting.
The exact location has not been determined, Goetz said, but having the complex built on the Minneapolis side could satisfy the track and field teams’ hopes of remaining close to the sports hub and also those watching the university’s decisions regarding women’s sports.
Land near the Les Bolstad Golf Course, on the St. Paul campus, was previously considered, amid concerns that it would move a large number of female athletes away from the Gophers’ main facilities. Track and field is the Gophers’ largest women’s sports team, with 85 listed on the roster. The current track is slated to be demolished to make room for the proposed $190 million “athletics village.”
Matt Bingle, Minnesota’s director of women’s track and field and cross-country, called Thursday’s outcome “a great day.”
“We wanted our athletes to have access to the [athletics] village,” Bingle said, “and have a good routine every day using all the facilities that all the athletes are going to have access to. … It shows support for our women, which they need. With all the things that are going on, I think they appreciate that.”
Goetz did not name any specific East Bank plots, but track locations believed to be in consideration include parking lots north of Ridder and Mariucci arenas and the land just east of TCF Bank Stadium.
Choosing a location also will be a step forward for the delayed athletics village proposal. The lack of a solution for a venue for the 130-plus track and field athletes, and the federal gender-equity investigation that prompted, is part of the reason the regents’ vote to approve the village, originally scheduled for June, has been delayed twice.
Regent Chairman Dean Johnson vowed Thursday to move ahead with the athletics village, lauding the decision to keep the track in Minneapolis. He called the present “a crossroad of Gopher athletics” and said he hopes that at the next board meeting on Oct. 9, “we will take the vote and hopefully in a few weeks or months after that, we’ll break ground on this athletics village because I think it’s very important for our student athletes.”
Goetz also announced that the university had raised an additional $5 million toward the $150 million necessary for phase one of the project — bringing the reported total to $75 million raised. Richard Pfutzenreuter, the university’s chief financial officer, said on Thursday that whatever funds aren’t raised will be taken in debt issued and paid back to meet 100 percent of the cost.
The village would include football and men’s and women’s basketball practice facilities and the Center for Excellence for all student athletes.
The U.S. Department of Education investigation began in January after an anonymous complaint focused on a neglect of future track facilities, particularly for the women’s team. Johnson said last month that the delays in voting on the athletics village had “many reasons, and all good reasons. [Track and field] is a very visible program and we have to do it right.”