Gophers athletics to get $190 million in facilities improvements

MINNEAPOLIS — University of Minnesota athletic director Norwood Teague introduced a plan Wednesday for improvements to the school’s athletic facilities with an estimated price tag of $190 million.

Included in the plan — which Teague estimates will take six to eight years to complete — is a much-needed practice facility for both the men’s and women’s basketball teams. Also in the plan are renovations to the Gophers’ football facility as well as the gymnastics, Olympic sports and outdoor track practice facilities. Aside from the athletic buildings, phase one of the plan also includes an academic center, a training table and dining area.

“It’s been a long time coming,” Teague said.

Teague cited other Big Ten programs that have led the way in upgrading their student-athlete facilities. Nebraska, a recent addition to the Big Ten, has many new facilities on campus, while the University of Wisconsin is finishing up its upgraded facility.

Many of Minnesota’s facilities, Teague noted, are 20-30 years old, which doesn’t stack up to the newer buildings being constructed on other Big Ten campuses.

“We need to get caught up,” Teague said. “It’s been difficult. I don’t think it’s been something that’s been awful for us, but it’s something that we’ve got to get past. We need these facilities in order to really compete head-to-head, especially in a handful of sports that are behind.”

The basketball teams lack a true practice facility, instead holding practices on the main court at Williams Arena — a dated building that also needs renovations, but Teague said it isn’t the school’s top priority at this time. The football team’s practice field has also needed upgrades, and several other teams have used that facility during the cold winter months, which, in Minnesota, can overlap into spring. That leaves too many teams using the same facilities, which wreaks havoc on practice and academic schedules, Teague said.

Earlier this year, Teague estimated that the facility upgrades would cost between $80 million to $120 million. The $190 million figure cited Wednesday clearly exceeds that amount.

Of course, there’s still the issue of raising the funds for the project, which won’t come easy. Teague said Wednesday that there was “no real number” of fundraising already committed to the efforts. He added that Northwestern’s facility upgrades will cost an estimated $220 million, of which $55 million has already been raised.

“I do feel good about being cognizant of expenses. I think we can do it very, very well,” Teague said. “I know it sounds like a lot of money. It’s what things cost now.”

While upgraded facilities will benefit the school’s student-athletes, it will also be a boon for recruiting. In this day and age, high school athletes are often drawn to colleges with top-notch practice facilities. Some big-time programs will spare no expenses in this regard with the hopes of landing the best recruits.

Seeing these new buildings on the Minnesota campus is something Teague hopes can help lure future Gophers to Minneapolis.

“I think they’re tremendously helpful, to say the least,” Teague said. “I don’t know if we can ever even come to grips with how important that is. It’s such a great presentation. It shows you mean business. It shows you’re committed.”

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