University of Minnesota officials said Thursday that the $150 million Athletes Village project is still on schedule to break ground this year, even though a review of the project was delayed from June to September.
The project, which includes 273,000 square feet of practice facilities and a 67,000-square-foot hub for student-athlete services on the school’s campus in Minneapolis, was initially expected to go before the U of M board of regents’ facilities committee this month.
The change to September prompted some questions about the project’s status, but U of M officials emphasized Thursday that all is well. Construction is expected to start this fall.
“I think people have inaccurately assumed that it’s something about the fundraising,” Pam Wheelock, vice president for University Services, said after Thursday’s meeting of the facilities committee. “It’s not about fundraising. The fundraising is on track.”
Wheelock said some design issues still need to be sorted out and the new schedule will allow the committee to take action on schematic design and the capital budget at the same time.
The project is only about halfway through schematic design, and it’s “a complicated site,” Wheelock said at the meeting.
The site is bounded by Fifth Street, Eighth Street Southeast, 15th Avenue Southeast and the U of M’s existing baseball and softball fields.
One looming design issue is where the U of M will relocate a track and field practice facility.
“We are working through options about where we could not only relocate on university grounds a practice facility for track, but actually upgrade it to allow us to hold competitions there, which requires a slightly larger footprint than the original practice facility,” Wheelock told Finance & Commerce.
Chris Werle, U of M senior associate athletic director for strategic communications, said that “we want to have the best track solution possible for the board to react to” in September.
About $70 million has been raised for the privately funded Athletes Village, Werle said.
In February, the facilities committee approved a $15 million budget for design of the project.
U of M athletics director Norwood Teague said in a memorandum this month that the $15 million “provides sufficient resources to complete the project’s schematic design and to bring it to the board of regents in September.”
That approach “will not impact the schedule for the completion of the planned athletic facilities,” he wrote.
In all, the U of M hopes to raise $190 million for the four-building Athletes Village complex, as well as future projects for golf, baseball, wrestling and women’s gymnastics, and upgrades to the current Bierman/Gibson-Nagurski training facility.
The project team includes Golden Valley-based Mortenson Construction (construction) and St. Paul-based BWBR (design).
U of M to buy 5-acre site
Also on Thursday, the committee approved the acquisition of a nearly 5-acre site at 600 25th Ave. SE and 649 26th Ave. SE.
The U of M has no immediate plans for property, known as the “White Box Commodities/Electric Steel Elevator site.” But Wheelock said after the meeting that there will be “some type of institutional use” there.
“We will have to sort that out, but the first step is to acquire the property,” she said.
According to U of M documents, the school will pay $1.45 million and reimburse the seller’s estimated $578,000 cost of demolishing grain elevators and building structures on the site.
The seller, Riverland Ag Corp., also intends to donate part of the property’s value — estimated at $1.05 million — to the U of M at the time of closing, the university said. The closing is expected June 30.
The U of M has completed a Phase I environmental site assessment and an asbestos/hazardous materials survey for the property, and another assessment will be done before closing to confirm that the property is in “acceptable environmental condition,” according to U of M documents.
One soil sample showed a level of arsenic “slightly above the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency’s Industrial standard,” but the property is “typical of soil” in this part of Minneapolis, said Sue Weinberg, U of M director of real estate services.
Weinberg said the owner approached the U of M about the property’s availability.