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MINNEAPOLIS-The University of Minnesota said Friday that T. Denny Sanford, a 1958 university graduate and chairman of a large South Dakota bank, will donate at least $35 million for a new on-campus football stadium if other donors match his gift.

As a result of the pledge and interest that other private donors have shown in an on-campus football stadium, the university has “stepped up” efforts to explore its feasibility, says Robert Bruininks, the president of the University of Minnesota. Such a stadium would hold 50,000 spectators and might cost $150 million or more–less than a third of what a stadium proposed by the Minnesota Vikings professional football team would cost. The Vikings and Gophers studied the possibility of building a joint stadium, but decided it wouldn’t work out, say university officials.

Sanford’s gift would be the largest single gift in the history of the 152-year-old academic institution, university officials say. “This gift has the potential to transform the student experience and the campus for generations to come,” Bruininks says. The university is studying facility requirements, such as size, amenities, and training, locker room and other needs; construction, development and operation costs; the potential for academic and student uses of the facility; and the potential for private fundraising.

“We are not going to do this in a way that siphons much-needed resources from our teaching and research mission,” Bruininks says. “However, I believe that we can raise substantial amounts of private funds to support a stadium that wouldn’t otherwise come to the university.”

Sanford, a 67-year-old St. Paul native, said Friday that he had “fond memories of games in Memorial Stadium,” the on-campus stadium where the Gophers football team played before moving to the Metrodome in 1982. Memorial Stadium was subsequently torn down, much to the disappointment of fans that liked their football played outdoors.

The new stadium would be built at Oak and Fourth streets, not far from Williams (Gopher basketball) and Mariucci (Gopher hockey) arenas. The 32-acre site, owned by the university and used for surface parking, is two blocks from where Memorial Stadium sat for 68 years.

Sanford is chairman of First Premier Bank, Sioux Falls, which is the third largest bank in South Dakota. He lives there and near Scottsdale, AZ, where he owns other businesses.

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