MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- Despite a challenging week for the University of Minnesota, top school officials and students athletes had reason to celebrate on Friday.
The university held a ceremonial groundbreaking on the site of the new planned Athletes Village. The project will add three new structures that will help 725 student athletes focus on academics, leadership, and nutrition.
The changes will include two new practice facilities for football and basketball. Student soccer athlete April Bockin told the crowd of onlookers she was excited for the changes to come.
"I'm most looking forward to more space to interact with and collaborate with other student athletes as well as out amazing staff," Bockin said.
Many of the people celebrating also discussed their deep sadness over the departure of football coach Jerry Kill. Kill worked tirelessly to advocate for funds and donations to be placed toward the athletic facilities improvements. So far, private and public donors have contribute more than $76 million to the project, but university officials explained some $85 million is still needed to complete the project.
"I think Jerry Kill might be the most popular guy in Minnesota, so when he talked about a need for facilities, people listened," University President Dr. Eric Kaler said.
Kaler said the new facilities will give Minnesota a chance to level the playing field with other Big Ten schools.
Interim Athletics Director Beth Goetz said while Kill will no longer be active on the field, he will still likely advocate for more funds.
"He will continue to be part of our spirit and legacy and that will help us move forward," she said.
Many university officials credited Kill for helping improve the team's performance and the popularity of Gopher sports.
According to the university, it's been 30 years since a new practice facility was added to the school. In that time, the number of student athletes has doubled.
The university said the entire new facility will open at once, making a push for the additional funds to pay for the project a top priority.
No opening date has been set for the project.
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