After years of planning, fundraising and false hopes, plans to build a new stadium for the University of Minnesota baseball team are finally moving forward.
The University is seeking an architect and contractor to build a $7.5 million baseball stadium to replace the 40-year-old Siebert Field. The new artificial turf field is scheduled to be completed by the end of this year.
For decades, the Gophers baseball program heard rumors of getting a new place to call home, but another multi-million dollar project would come up and trump it — most recently, TCF Bank Stadium.
The University put out a request for proposals last week after years of fundraising to begin the project.
“This means a great deal to the baseball program that has been playing in a facility that is a little out-of-date,” said David Crum, associate athletics director of the Golden Gopher Fund.
The fund, which is the nonprofit branch of the University’s athletics department in charge of fundraising, has secured commitments for a little more than $7 million toward the project. It will be built on the current Siebert Field site.
The Golden Gopher Fund has received a number of six-figure contributions including a $2 million gift from the Pohlad Family Foundation, the family that owns the Minnesota Twins.
From maintenance issues to a recruiting disadvantage, Siebert Field — constructed in 1971 — has plagued the baseball team since the early 90s. Baseball has lagged behind in an athletic department that prides itself on infrastructure. Minnesota boasts some of the top facilities in the nation like the University Aquatic Center and Ridder Arena.
“Our job is to get [Gopher baseball] a facility that is comparable to other Big Ten facilities so they’re on a level playing field,” Crum said.
Intermittently for the past decade, the Gophers baseball team has had to play its home games off-campus at the Metrodome, where attendance is poor. After the December 2010 collapse of the Dome’s roof, the team scrambled to schedule home games, which resulted in a slew of cancellations.
The team played four weekend series at Target Field and a handful of games at Siebert while the rest were either played on the road or cancelled altogether.
In 2004, the University had to schedule 24 of 35 home games in the Metrodome because Siebert Field was in such disrepair — the first time since 1970 that a majority of the home games were played off the historic field.
In 2012, the team might find it hard to keep both eyes on this season as 38 of the 39 home games will be played in the Metrodome during what may be the last year of off-campus baseball.
Since the early 90s, Gophers head baseball coach John Anderson has advocated for a new stadium and watched as the Sports Pavilion, Mariucci Arena Baseline Tennis Center and other facilities were built.
“A great number of the [donations] have been coming in because of John Anderson,” Crum said. “He is a patient and loyal member of this athletic department.”