Oct. 20, 2017
Shovels turned over dirt early Friday afternoon in what has been deep right-center field for the University's recreational softball field in recent years, signaling the beginning of a construction project that will transform the field, along with the neighboring rec sports soccer field, into the University's new outdoor track and field stadium.
University and athletics department leadership, along with the coaching staffs, student-athletes and alumni of both the Gopher men's and women's programs, were in attendance on Friday for the ceremonial groundbreaking of the new facility, which is scheduled to be open next September. The project will enable the University to host on-campus, collegiate competitions for the first time in nearly 15 years.
"If we want to continue supporting a successful, broad-based athletics department, having an on-campus outdoor facility for our track and field programs is more than important. It's imperative," said Athletics Director Mark Coyle. "The greatest thing about this facility is that we'll have a home for our student-athletes to train and compete. Beyond serving our students, this facility will be a beacon on this great campus. It will draw thousands of competitors and fans to our campus each year to see the amazing things happening at the University of Minnesota."
Coyle was the final speaker during a brief, midday program. He was joined on the dais by the Chairman of the University's Board of Regents, David McMillan, and University President Eric Kaler. The audience also heard from Matt Bingle and Steve Plasencia, the directors of Minnesota women's and men's program, respectively, as well as a student-athletes from each program, Big Ten hammer throw champion Temi Ogunrinde representing the women's team, and Big Ten indoor mile champ Derek Wiebke on the men's side.
"It's wonderful to be here today, a long-awaited day for our two programs," Plasencia told the crowd. "The day has finally come where our drive toward a new facility has turned onto the backstretch and we're picking up speed. That finish line is not far from now, in September, but that's only a finish line for this project. It's also a starting line for a new era of Gopher track and field."
A prevailing theme throughout the event was the wide-reaching impact this facility would have within the athletics department, through the University campus and for the entire state's track and field community.
"Today is a bit surreal. I can't believe it has finally come," said Bingle during his turn at the podium. "When you think about the vision ahead, it's very exciting. It's hard to put words to it. What this facility can mean for the community, the state of Minnesota, the University, I hope its impact is as far-reaching as possible. The vision is to have as many kids as possible come on campus from all over the world and compete at this facility, and have the University of Minnesota impact their lives like it has for so many of us."
More than just the everyday home for the Gopher women's and men's track and field programs (teams that include more than 150 student-athletes) and a venue suitable for hosting Big Ten and NCAA competition, the new facility will also be a centerpiece facility for the state's track and field community, offering a state-of-the-art option for Minnesota's biggest high school meets, USA Track and Field competitions, and community and club events.
The new stadium will feature a nine-lane track with three chutes, full field event hosting capabilities, and a design to allow sprints and certain field events to be held in multiple directions to take advantage of wind conditions on competition days. These features, along with permanent and event-based seating, provide the flexibility and the amenities to host a wide variety of meets.
The new facility will neighbor Siebert Field and Jane Sage Cowles Stadium, the University's baseball and softball venues, sitting just to the east. The University's rec softball field, soccer fields and indoor bubble, which presently occupy the site that will become the outdoor track and field stadium, will be relocated to property east of TCF Bank Stadium following the fall rec sports season.
Construction of this new facility, which will cost $13 million, will be paid for entirely by athletics. Fundraising and private contributions will be play a major part in the athletics department's financing for the project. Those efforts have already begun and will continue in the months and years to come. If you are interested in making a gift to support construction of this new facility, please click here or contact the Golden Gopher Fund.
More information about the facility and how to give is also available on NothingShortOfGreatness.com or by visiting z.umn.edu/newtrack. As the construction process continues, more information will be available on the website.
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