University of St. Thomas announces record-setting donation for new sports arena

Rico Blasi knew that the University of St. Thomas’ 2020 transfer to NCAA Division I athletics would require the St. Paul non-public college to improve its amenities. The males’s hockey coach simply did not suppose it could occur so quick.

Thanks to a file $75 million present — believed to be the most important to any college in Minnesota — building of the Lee and Penny Anderson Arena might start in 2024, with the doorways open as quickly as 2025.

“This shouldn’t be one thing that comes simple,” Blasi stated after the announcement in a packed atrium on the Anderson Student Center. “Certainly the pace of how every little thing has unfolded, we’re very grateful for that.”

The present goes a great distance in direction of assembly the venture’s estimated complete value of $175 million, and places the college greater than 60% in direction of its fundraising aim of $131 million, St. Thomas athletic director Phil Esten stated Tuesday. He repeatedly referred to as the Andersons’ donation — one of a number of the couple has made over time — transformative.

The heart will probably be house to males’s and ladies’s hockey and males’s and ladies’s basketball. It may even serve a quantity of different capabilities, together with graduation and convocation ceremonies. Its basketball courts and ice rinks may be utilized by excessive faculties and youth groups, Esten stated.

The donation comes because the Catholic college in St. Paul is making an attempt to construct his repute exterior the Twin Cities and is relying, partly, on athletics to do this.

“We are tremendous sturdy in our area,” University President Rob Vischer stated. “We have to be identified exterior of our area, and athletics is one lever that we have to make use of to develop that repute.

“We don’t anticipate that it will require a rise in tuition,” he stated.

The college obtained permission from the NCAA in 2020 to leap from Division III athletics to Division I in most sports, a transition that took impact final college yr.

Esten stated he hopes with the ability to present amenities that “no less than are comparable, if not exceed these of our opponents” will present a lift for recruitment.

The new arena will probably be constructed on the south aspect of the college’s campus, close to a parking facility additionally named for the couple. To make room, the college anticipates that it’s going to demolish the McCarthy Gymnasium, the Service Center, and the Cretin Hall dormitory.

St. Thomas is the most important non-public college in Minnesota. For a long time, its development and the complications that may include hundreds of faculty college students dwelling in an in any other case residential space have sparked pressure between space residents and the college.

Vischer acknowledged that the venture would require communication and cooperation between the college and its neighbors. Heightened considerations over parking and visitors are certain to accompany the arena’s progress. St. Thomas already participates in a pair of totally different neighborhood teams, he stated.

“This will unfold in that common course, the place we have already got these relationships,” Vischer stated.

Following the announcement, the design course of for the arena will speed up.

The hockey groups presently play off campus on the St. Thomas Ice Arena in Mendota Heights, which has seating for solely about 1,000 spectators. The basketball groups play on campus at Schoenecker Arena with capability for about 1,800. The new arena would have 4,000 seats for hockey and 5,000 for basketball.

Jade Hill, a sophomore from Minneapolis on the ladies’s basketball group, stated she is aware of she’s going to by no means have an opportunity to play on the new arena. But she stated the Andersons’ present will probably be felt by a long time of gamers to come back.

“I really feel like what we’re doing is de facto particular and all of the student-athletes can see it and really feel it,” Hill stated.

Kendall Blue, a freshman on the lads’s basketball group, anticipates hitting the courtroom within the new arena as a senior.

“It’s motivating to simply come to work day by day, to signify St. Paul and to signify my college,” Blue stated.

John Tauer, males’s head basketball coach, admitted to being a bit awestruck after the whirlwind that has accompanied St. Thomas’ unprecedented rise from NCAA Division III to Division I.

“It’s a combination of gratitude and amazement, whenever you take a look at the scope of the venture. Not simply what it will enable our basketball and hockey groups to do, however your complete college,” he stated.

The constructing will probably be constructed with Kasota limestone to stay in character with others on campus, one of the stipulations the Andersons placed on the donation.

“We do not make rather a lot of $75 million presents; that is the one one,” Lee Anderson stated in an interview. “We are proud of our affiliation with the college. We felt we might do it and different individuals would profit from our success.”

Anderson owned New Brighton-based APi Group Inc., and offered the privately held enterprise three years in the past when he retired.

Anderson by no means attended St. Thomas, however the Twin Cities native who now lives in Naples, Fla., together with his spouse, stated he lengthy admired the establishment. He served on the college’s board of trustees for 12 years. His daughter, Katharine Anderson Groethe, now serves on the board, and her kids attend the college.

“The transfer to Division I used to be a quantum leap for them, and the amenities are lower than the requirements of a Division I college,” Lee Anderson stated in an interview. “The arena venture got here alongside, and that was one thing we might assist.”

Staff author Tim Harlow contributed to this report.

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