Minnesota took a step forward in creating an atmosphere that will be more competitive with other Big Ten programs with the news that they'll be working on a $166 million Athletes Village. The project, which was approved by a Board of Regents at the end of this past week, is set to include state of the art practice and training facilities for both the basketball and football programs.
The project, which was seen as a major necessity for the program to remain competitive with other teams in the conference, was supposed to have around 80% of the funding raised via donations. The university, however, failed to reach their goal as Minnesota was only able to raise around $76 million of the $166 million needed for the facilities. While Minnesota couldn't raise the initial capital they had hoped, the school still approved the plan and will utilize long-term debt that the university will repay over time.
Dean Johnson, the board of regents chairman, believes that the facilities were absolutely vital and that delaying the project once again wouldn't be acceptable for the school. "I think we as a university owe it to our student athletes. We clearly have third rate facilities...We’re not competitive at all," mentioned Johnson.
The new facilities will definitely help men's basketball head coach Richard Pitino recruit to Minnesota with the addition of a new basketball development center.
"This new facility is huge in the development of our basketball program. Our student-athletes will now have a home where they can study, refuel and train. The flexibility this facility will offer gives them more time to explore academic and volunteer opportunities or develop their job skills for life after basketball. As we continue to build the Gopher men’s basketball program, today’s announcement is a big step forward," said Pitino.
While the main focus point on the new facilities is based around the football program, especially with a new indoor practice facility, the additions show that the university is serious about improving their athletic programs. College sports, especially basketball and football, is essentially an arms race as each school spends millions to create the most impressive and up to date facilities to impress high school students across the country. The new basketball facilities will not only be a way to help impress recruits, but the amount of money spent on new facilities shows recruits that their potential school is serious about being competitive.
Also, the inclusion of a new academic and dining center for Gopher student-athletes is even more icing on the cake. Pitino has already showed his ability to bring in some solid talent to Minneapolis and this will allow the coach to create an even better destination for recruits.
Interestingly enough, the project faced some significant issues in the development stage due to Title IX. In order to build the facilities, the university is removing the track facilities that are used by a sizable number of female athletes. With the new facilities catering predominantly to male athletes, a complaint was filed pertaining to gender discrimination. This ultimately forced Minnesota to also raise money to build a new track for their student athletes, though a site is still being determined.
Either way, this is definitely good news for Pitino and company as the basketball program is set to have improved facilities in the near future. Now Pitino can get back to focusing on getting his Gophers back to the NCAA Tournament after missing out in his first two seasons.