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Finance & Commerce (Minneapolis, MN)

The University of Minnesota's hoped-for $190 million athletics complex is still without a groundbreaking date and the fundraising effort remains a work in progress, but other project-related plans are moving forward.

Late last week, the U of M put out a request for professional services to analyze everything from parking needs to site access for the proposed "athletes village" on the U of M's East Bank.

The requested "district improvements study" is a step forward in planning for the new complex, which would include an academic center, practice facilities for football and basketball, and new digs for women's gymnastics, Olympic-style sports, and wrestling.

Scott Ellison, the U of M's associate athletics director, said the study will analyze issues such as access, underground utilities, and traffic flow for pedestrians and vehicles.

"Basically, it's making sure we have the right size, right fit. And that we take into account all the infrastructure issues we might have onsite," said Ellison said.

Kansas City-based Populous has worked with the U of M on master planning for the complex, which is planned for an area bounded by Fifth Street SE, Eighth Street SE, 15 Avenue SE and the U of M's existing baseball and softball fields.

The upcoming study will "test, refine and extend" planning work completed last year, according to the RFP.

When it announced plans for the new athletics village last July, the U of M said the complex would be paid for with private money, and that the fundraising campaign would last six to eight years.

In December, the U of M announced that it hired Minnesota sports icon Lou Nanne, a U of M graduate, to lead the fundraising campaign. The university isn't saying how much money has been raised.

"We are just finishing up a fundraising feasibility study," said Chris Werle, communications director for the U of M's Department of Intercollegiate Athletics.

University officials stressed Monday that there's no specific timeline for breaking ground on the project.

Ellison said the U of M wants to get shovels in the ground "as fast as we can," while at the same time being mindful of and following university policies and procedures.

Deadlines for the district improvements study are more definite.

Proposals for the study are due April 17, and a consultant will be identified later in the month, with work to be completed by Aug. 1. The U of M has budgeted $80,000 for the study.

The scope of work includes analysis of utilities, geotechnical issues, stormwater treatment requirements, current and future parking needs, site access and circulation, and the project schedule and phasing, according to the RFP.

In addition, the consultant will be responsible for "urban design recommendations" to increase the visibility of athletics facilities on campus, and updated budget estimates for site improvements.

The new complex would enable the university to replace aging and over-crowded facilities, improve the student-athlete experience, and "seamlessly connect athletics facilities to the university and its neighborhoods," according to the U of M.

"This is a great plan and assessment that shows our needs. These are needs," U of M athletics director Norwood Teague said last July.

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April 4, 2014

 

 
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