Land O'Lakes gives $25M to U of M, boosts athletics facilities plan

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Land O'Lakes has pledged to give $25 million to the University of Minnesota – $21 million of it earmarked for new athletics complex facilities and programs.

The pledge – one of the university's largest single corporate donations ever – offers a big boost to the school's ambitious plan for a $190 million athletics village.

“This is what we have been waiting for,” Athletics Director Norwood Teague told the Star Tribune. “...Land O’Lakes has given us a huge shot in this campaign."

Teague a year ago unveiled a grand eight-year vision for his department – a new $190 million athletics village that would include new practice facilities for the football and basketball teams, an academic center for athletes, a women's gymnastics training facility, a wresting training facility, and indoor and outdoor facilities for Olympic sports. Since then, he's been trying to drum up private donations, with few notable big successes.

“This is a long step forward,” former Gophers hockey player Lou Nanne, who is leading the U of M's $190 million fundraising effort, told the Star Tribune. “Minnesota corporations haven’t become partners with the university like they should, and for Land O’Lakes to do this — to lead the way — is a real good feather in its hat.”

Arden Hills-based Land O'Lakes' donation would include $15 million for a 60,000-square-foot facility that would be a "centerpiece" of the new athletics village, according to a U of M press release. It will house academic and leadership development programs, as well as a training table for athletes that serves food based on their nutritional needs. The building has an expected opening of fall 2016.

Here's how the rest of the Land O'Lakes pledge would be doled out, according to the university:

Athletics Department

  • $3,350,000 for program support for activities in the Center for Excellence with a specific focus on the Student-Athlete Leadership Development Center and the Gopher Connect Program.
  • $2,687,500 for support of various intercollegiate athletic sponsorship and events

Carlson School of Management

  • $2.5 million to establish the endowed Land O'Lakes Chair in Marketing. Carlson School of Management professor Kathleen Vohs has been selected to fill this chair.

College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences

  • $1 million to support scholarships and programming for students.

Another $375,000 would be used to support Welcome Week activities at the U, as well as pay for an annual agriculture symposium; and yet another $87,500 would support college programming.

“This announcement underscores our commitment to educational excellence and further strengthens our investment in the pipeline of talent from the University of Minnesota,” said Christopher Policinski, president and CEO of Land O’Lakes, Inc.

University President Eric W. Kaler planned to join Policinski at a Wednesday afternoon news conference on Northrop Mall on the University’s East Bank to formally announce the $25 million pledge.

Here's a video from July 2013 when Teague outlined a vision for the $190 million plan:

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