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Minnesota sports upgrades part of $190M plan

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) - The University of Minnesota has put a practice facility for the men's and women's basketball programs in a priority group of sports projects on campus estimated to cost $190 million.

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Athletic director Norwood Teague presented the plan Wednesday to the Board of Regents. He said the money would be raised solely by private funding.

``We have had a lot of discussions. There's no real number right now that's been committed,'' Teague said. ``But hopefully we can tell you that very soon when we really open it up into an open phase or a live phase. . This is kind of the first step.''

The facilities assessment was originally supposed to be unveiled in the spring. The original price tag Teague mentioned was between $80 and $120 million. But this is an ambitious project, which also includes new academic, dining and nutrition areas for athletes, an upgraded football practice facility and new space for the women's gymnastics, men's and women's indoor and outdoor track and field and wrestling teams. This is only the first phase of the plan, with a completion target of six to eight years.

``We have a lot of passionate people out there. I'm trusting if we sell a big vision that we'll find that we'll have a great response. We hope that there will still be a handful of lead donors,'' Teague said, pointing the possibility of additional revenue from the Big Ten as another funding source. He added: ``I do feel good about being cognizant of expenses. I think we can do it very, very well. . I know it sounds like a lot of money. It's what things cost now.''

The Gophers basketball teams play in Williams Arena, which was built in 1928. Teague said any renovations to that building would be in the second phase of this development plan, even further off in the horizon. But the basketball programs have long lobbied for a separate place to practice, with more space to minimize or eliminate usage conflicts and of course the modern amenities to better attract recruits.

Currently, Williams Arena and the adjacent Sports Pavilion house games and practices for basketball, volleyball, wrestling and gymnastics plus the dance team and occasional state high school tournament competition.

``Our indoor training facilities are overcrowded. We are, as I've said sometimes, on top of each other,'' Teague said.

Keeping up with the conference is what truly pushes the agenda in all of this, though.

``Most of our Big Ten competitors are ahead of us. Nebraska has done a phenomenal job of a really holistic upgrade of their facilities as it relates to the training table and academic facility and weight rooms, things like that. They're new to our league, but they're a great example. They're not far from us,'' Teague said, adding: ``We need these facilities in order to really compete head-to-head, especially in a handful of sports that are behind.''

Football is on that list, too. The roof over the indoor field has leaked for years. This plan would enhance that structure and create space for two outdoor fields, up from the current one.

``Am I guaranteeing that all this will be done in eight years?'' Teague said. ``No. But that's our goal.''

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Follow Dave Campbell on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/DaveCampbellAP

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