September 4, 2013
Borton's Blog: Armed in the race
When Stephen M. Ross sees the goal line, he's apparently disinclined to stutter-step. The high-powered real estate developer and owner of the NFL's Miami Dolphins has scored in a way that will keep Michigan winning for a long time. Field Hockey Renovation Project, $13.5 million, 2013
Ross agreed to pour $200 million more of his dollars into the University of Michigan, split equally between the business school already named in honor of him and U-M's athletic department. That takes him to lifetime giving of more than $313 million, making him more generous than Bo Pelini's defense.
We'll leave the business side to the business folks, and focus on "the playground"
and Michigan isn't playing, when it comes to the ramp-up in facilities. Some folks saw completion of the massive renovations at Michigan Stadium, Crisler Center and Yost Ice Arena, and wondered, what more is there to do?
Turns out, there's plenty. Some $341 million in identified projects, to be precise, all incorporated in Michigan's Athletics South Campus Capital Plan.
A couple of those projects are already underway, including the $9 million re-do of Schembechler Hall, and the $5.3 million makeover of the Donald R. Shepherd Softball Center, the latter allowing for on-site coaches offices and a host of added amenities.
No less than 14 other projects, most still requiring navigation through the approval process by Michigan's Board of Regents, have also been identified. They are as follows, with a projected cost and hoped-for start-up year included.
Lacrosse Outdoor Stadium & Team Center, $34 million, 2014
South Athletic Performance/Rowing/Soccer Center, $57 million, 2014
Outdoor Track & Field Stadium, $30 million, 2014
Indoor Track and Team Center, $57 million, 2014
Multi-Sport Competition Venue, $43 million, 2016
Canham Natatorium Expansion - Aquatics Center, $40 million, 2016
Cliff Keen Athletic Performance Center, $18 million, 2017
Stephen M. Ross Academic Center Expansion, $10 million, 2017
New Weidenbach Administration Building, $12 million, 2017
U-M Golf Course Restoration, $6 million, 2018
Golf Course Clubhouse, $12 million, 2018
Operations Center, $6 million, 2018
Athletic Campus Walk Of Champions $3 million, 2019
You don't come up with that kind of cash easily, no matter how dynamically you price your football tickets. And at some point, the model for extracting money out of the winged helmets simply won't keep pace with those sorts of ambitions.
That's where a Ross comes in, along with a number of other big givers to Michigan athletics over the years. When you're seeking $341 million, and $100 million of it arrives in a single hit, that's one heck of a flying start.
U-M Athletics Director David Brandon told The Wolverine this summer that despite the perception of the athletic department standing in great shape with double-digit surpluses in several recent years, he's not resting easy.
"I'll never stop worrying about the budget," Brandon said. "To have a $146 million enterprise and to have a $9 million operating surplus projected, when $2.5 million of that comes from a hockey game that isn't going to be repeated [the NHL Winter Classic], in combination with an existing debt level of about $240 million, and capital projects that have been identified to the tune of about $325 million, resources will always be an issue."
Now, some will question the need for a $34 million lacrosse stadium, or a $57 million indoor track center, as just a couple of examples. But clearly, Michigan finds itself in the college athletics arms race when it comes to facilities.
And as usual, Brandon is in it to win it.
"My objective during my time here at Michigan is to get those projects completed, so that every student-athlete at the University of Michigan gets what I call 'The Michigan Experience.' That means they get to practice, train and compete in facilities that are as good as anybody has in America."
Thanks to Ross and others, Michigan has already cleared several hurdles toward that end. And there's no looking back.
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