MINNEAPOLIS -- More than 2,000 private residents have donated a total of $81.5 million to help build the new Gopher football stadium at the University of Minnesota.
University athletics officials need to raise another $4.5 million in order to reach their private fundraising goal of $86 million toward the project's $288 million total cost.
But they plan to keep raising money after they hit the goal -- associate athletic director David Crum told the Minnesota Daily that they'd like to raise another $25 million to replace costs that would otherwise have to be covered by Athletic Department bonds.
Avoiding that would leave more money in the department's budget for all 25 sports programs at the college, Crum said. But the stadium's inaugural game will go forward Sept. 12 regardless of the fundraising, he said.
Some former Gopher football players have been among the private donors. Bob McNamara, who played running back and defensive end from 1951 to 1954, gave $15,000 and helped raised another $1 million.
"I just feel as if there's a way we can do this and do that and some of our other guys can give back so that we'll be close to our goal," he said.
McNamara has raised money for the athletics department for 35 years.
Following his seven-year professional football career, which included stints with the Denver Broncos and the Minnesota Vikings, McNamara opened a restaurant with his brother Richard "Pinky" McNamara, for whom the McNamara Alumni Center is named.
A new donor is former Gophers punter Brent Herbel, who played from 1986-1989 and was an academic all-American. He donated $25,000 for the outdoor stadium, which he believes will benefit the program.
"As a punter, the (Metrodome) was perfect, not having to worry about weather conditions, but that's still no substitute for the on-campus stadium and the student support," said Herbel, a physician in Bismarck, N.D. "If you go to any other Big Ten stadiums where they have that situation, I think that's something that the university could certainly use."
(Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)