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The Commercial Appeal (Memphis, Tennessee)
The University of Memphis' new board of trustees voted Friday to allow university president M. David Rudd to pursue and finalize alternate financing for the construction of the football program's indoor practice facility, one of the last steps before construction can begin.
Rudd said the motion, which was unanimously approved by the board's eight members, was all the university needed to keep the facility on track for a late-April groundbreaking.
"For us, it's the final piece," athletic director Tom Bowen added. "That's really the last piece. So that's exciting."
Bowen said a groundbreaking date will be finalized next week.
Memphis has been raising money for the construction of an indoor football practice facility for more than five years, most recently as part of its "Time to Shine" capital campaign. The university kicked off the public phase of the campaign in Aug. 2015, having raised 60 percent of its fundraising goal of $40 million to build new practice facilities for both the football and basketball programs. Memphis announced at the time that it would begin constructing both facilities later that fall.
In the 18 months since, the university has broken ground on the new basketball facility but construction of the football facility has been delayed, to the frustration of Tiger fans.
In an interview with The Commercial Appeal in January, Rudd said the university had raised approximately $37 million toward its goal.
"Part of the challenge though, is that some of those gifts are essentially what we refer to as backloaded, which means that they are gifts that won't pay off for another 10 years, may not pay off for another 15 years, and so the challenge becomes the cash flow," Rudd said then. "So we have to have an adequate cash flow and the fundraising to pay for it."
Meanwhile, Memphis was also in the process of exiting the Tennessee Board of Regents system and transitioning to its own independent board of trustees, which met for the first time Friday. So instead of continuing to seek approval from the statewide supervisory board to complete financing, he made his request to the newly formed eight-member board at Memphis.
"The motion was for me to move forward in finalizing the financing," Rudd explained Friday. "We'll have a groundbreaking at the end of April. This allows me to sign the letter of intent, go back to the state building commission, and finalize that process and build the facility."
Rudd said in January that it will take approximately 10-12 months to complete construction of the indoor football facility, though work on the staff's office space and other related renovations may last a few months longer.
The board's vote came a day after the Tigers opened spring ball at the Billy J. Murphy Athletic Complex, thereby kicking off the second season of Mike Norvell's tenure as head coach. The Tigers finished 8-5 last season and will return nine offensive starters, including rising senior quarterback Riley Ferguson and wide receiver Anthony Miller in 2017.
Bowen said the board's approval Friday was a formality and simply allows he and his staff to remain on schedule.
"We haven't diverted from anything we're doing," Bowen said. "We're still on our late-April date for groundbreaking."
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