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Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Fat Men Are One Thing.
Stupid Are Another.

Type TCF STADIUM into the Search feature up there and enjoy a full plate of UD posts over a couple of years about the University of Minnesota's fiasco. (Here's a sample.)

And all because men are dumb. They get way excited about big ol' sports stadiums for their universities, and only after spending hundreds of millions of dollars realize that they can't afford them.

Six months after detailed drawings were released and a new football coach was hired, the University of Minnesota is learning that raising money for a new football stadium has many good days -- and some that are not as good.

"I think Joel Maturi kind of naively thought that there might be, you know, a little bit more success in the corporate world from a philanthropic standpoint," Maturi, the university's athletic director, said as he sat in his office. "We're not giving up." [Sadder but wiser Joel refers to his earlier incarnation in the third person. He's worked out his naivete thing, and UD's happy for him. Now he needs to think in bigger terms -- about how he fucked up an entire university.]

As the university tries to build more enthusiasm for the new $288.5 million facility with a groundbreaking ceremony today, there are ample signs of fundraising success: The campaign has $51 million in gifts, including 17 gifts of at least $1 million and another $9.2 million in pledges.

University officials are also confident that many ordinary Minnesotans will donate money when a grass-roots fundraising drive begins next year.

But the big corporate hitters -- other than TCF Bank, whose stadium naming rights agreement is valued at $21 million -- have been harder to sign. Of the gifts of $1 million or more through the end of May, just three came from large corporations -- Best Buy, Target and General Mills. And in the three months following the release of the stadium's design and the hiring of head coach Tim Brewster, according to university records, there were no additional donors in the coveted $1 million bracket and just three new in the $100,000-and-above category.

For those closely involved, the fundraising drive so far has been a lesson in what is possible -- and what is not. The university can only look with envy at places such as Oklahoma State University, where financier T. Boone Pickens pledged $165 million to athletics last year, and at Ohio State University, which completed a $200 million renovation of its landmark 105,000-seat football stadium. [Imagine looking at schools like these with envy. Unlike them, the University of Minnesota used to be intellectually distinguished. People like Joel are seeing to the end of that.]

Not counting the TCF Bank naming rights agreement, the University of Minnesota has raised roughly $39 million. Much of that -- $24 million -- has come in the 14 months since the Legislature approved the stadium-financing package, according to Judy Kirk, executive vice president of the University of Minnesota Foundation, which is assisting in the fundraising.

University officials are confident that with $26 million still to be raised privately -- public money is financing much of the stadium's cost -- the job ahead is doable before the 50,000-seat, campus facility opens in two years. "Great progress is being made," said John Lindahl, who with his wife, Nancy, have donated $1 million and have co-chaired the overall fundraising drive. Norwest Equity Partners, where Lindahl is the managing partner, has also given $1 million.

"All I know is we have until September of '09 to do it," he said, referring to the opening date.

But unless more large contributors come forward, the remainder will have to come from smaller donations. [And from jerking students and alumni around in all the time-honored ways: Vast student activity fees... immensely inflated ticket prices... deferred maintenance on campus infrastructure... withdrawal of various forms of academic support...]

--minnesota star tribune--