A Thursday morning report by Sid Hartman of the Star Tribune suggested the University of Minnesota was planning to break ground in December on a privately funded $70 million football facility, but officials close to the project say there is no truth to the story.
Minnesota hockey legend Lou Nanne, who is also the chairman of a fundraising committee tasked with raising $190 million to improve athletic facilities at the U of M, says the report by Hartman is "totally inaccurate."
"I'm out of town and I read this morning the erroneous report that Sid Hartman wrote about having plans to break ground in December for a $70 million facility. That's totally irresponsible," Nanne said in an interview with 1500 ESPN. "There are no plans to break ground and the facility that we're looking at is not remotely close to 70 million [dollars]. We want to get that word out because that is just totally, totally incorrect."
Hartman wrote in his column that crews were going to break ground in December at a site near the Bierman Building on the U of M campus. The report said the new facility would include a modern indoor practice facility, coaching offices and other amenities for the Gopher football team.
Nanne says his group is still in the process of raising money.
"We're going through facilities plans that we're looking at. We have no plans to break ground. We're in the process of raising funds," he said. "We are making our calls and talking to potential donors and we are working very hard at that. We've had a number of different sketches of the facilities of what we're doing but $70 million is totally inaccurate."
On top of that, the report was refuted by U of M associate athletics director Chris Werle, who told the Pioneer Press that "a December groundbreaking is not realistic."
Gophers athletics director Norwood Teague hasn't commented on the issue.
The U of M recently used $1 million to renovate the Gibson-Nagurski complex, where football players currently practice. The indoor facility is small compared to other Big Ten university football facilities. At 12,000 square feet, the current setup pales in comparison to the Nebraska Cornhuskers' 81,200-square-foot facility.
The belief is that Minnesota needs to upgrade its facilities if it wants to remain competitive within the conference.
"Most of our Big Ten competitors are ahead of us," Teague said last July when unveiling a $190 million plan to improve the university's athletic facilities, as reported by the Pioneer Press. "Nebraska has done a phenomenal job, a real holistic upgrade of their facilities, as it relates to training table and academic facility and weight rooms. They're not far from us. Wisconsin is finishing up its student-athlete performance building. It is in the third phase and is going to be terrific.
"We need to get caught up."
Click here for a photo gallery of conceptual images of facility designs the Gophers released last summer.