With today’s approval from the University of Minnesota Board of Regents, the University will proceed with a plan to build a new outdoor track and field stadium on its East Bank campus. Though timelines on construction projects are always fluid, current plans call for the facility to open in September 2018.
“To maintain a successful, broad-based athletics department, our students need first-class facilities to train, practice and compete,” said athletics director Mark Coyle. “This new outdoor track and field stadium will provide that type of facility for our men’s and women’s track and field programs while giving them a long-term, on-campus home.”
The new facility will give the University an opportunity to host outdoor track and field competitions for the first time in nearly 15 years. The previous track and field facility had been unfit to host collegiate or USA Track and Field events due to the shifting and uneven surface of the track, a recurring issue caused by unstable soil beneath the old facility.
The University’s men’s and women’s track and field programs have been practicing at outdoor facilities at other local colleges for the past year as construction of several new development facilities for Gopher student-athletes displaced the old Bierman Track. This new facility will provide a permanent, everyday home for the more than 150 Gopher student-athletes who compete for these two programs.
“The new facility is going to be great for the daily lives of our student-athletes. It’s going to have a tremendous impact and make their lives simpler by having the dining hall, academic center, locker room, weight room, training room, coaches offices, and track all in one area,” said Matt Bingle, director of women’s track and field/cross country. “We’re very excited about it and grateful for the efforts to make the facility possible. It’s going to be a great journey between now and when it’s built.”
In addition to serving as the new home for Gopher Track and Field, the stadium will be a valuable asset for the state’s track and field community. Minnesota’s track and field community is among the largest, most engaged and most innovative in the nation, yet no single location serves as its centerpiece. This facility will be synonymous with track and field excellence in the Midwest, offering opportunities to host Big Ten and NCAA championships, Minnesota’s high school state meet, USA Track and Field’s marquee events, and community events sponsored by local and regional clubs.
“This is incredible news for our program, and we are thankful for the tremendous efforts of numerous people to get this project started,” Steve Plasencia, director of men’s track and field/cross country, said. “Having an elite, on-campus facility to call home will be an immeasurable asset for our program and for the Minnesota track and field community. Our student-athletes certainly need this facility, as do our alumni and our fans. I’m excited that they are now going to get it.”
The new stadium will feature a nine-lane track, full field event and steeplechase 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 provide the flexibility to host a wide variety of meets. Permanent and event-based seating will offer enough room for spectators to satisfy the hosting requirements for these meets as well.
Situated just to the east of Siebert Field, the University’s baseball venue, this new stadium will be located in the heart of the new Athletes Village area. The University’s rec sports softball field and indoor bubble, which currently occupy the future site of the facility, will be relocated.
The project will cost the athletics department approximately $19 million. The athletics department plans to generate this funding through private contributions. The fundraising for the new stadium has already begun, with basic information about the facility and how to give available on NothingShortOfGreatness.com. As the construction process continues, more information will be available on the website.
(photos and info courtesy of Gopher Sports)