The University of Virginia Board of Visitors on Friday approved the addition of a 78,000-square-foot indoor practice facility to the school’s Major Capital Projects Program, according to an agenda items summary of the board meeting.
The facility will be a permanent fieldhouse structure and is expected to cost up to $13 million. Jon Oliver, Virginia’s executive associate athletic director, said in a recent telephone interview that construction cannot begin until half the funds for the project — $6.5 million — are in hand and the remainder are in the form of guaranteed pledges.
The athletic department received a $5 million pledge from one donor toward the project over the summer. Oliver said most donors that make large pledges provide the money in increments, rather than all at once.
While the project is dependent on private fundraising, the athletic department may request an internal loan from the university “to provide bridge financing” should the project run into cash-flow problems during the course of construction, according to the agenda items summary. The university’s Treasury Management would have to approve the loan based a credit assessment, and the loan would be repaid over a span of up to five years “as gift pledges are collected.”
The Virginia Athletics Foundation will head up fundraising efforts for the indoor practice facility, and Oliver said there have been discussions with several other donors in recent weeks about potential pledges to the project.
“I don’t know this one will break down, but I don’t think it’s going to be a bunch of $5,000 gifts,” Oliver said. “You’re going to have to have two or three major gifts to get the momentum to be able to get this thing finished.”
Oliver said the hope is to begin construction around the beginning of summer 2012 and that the facility should take roughly a year to complete. While the facility primarily will house the football team, it will be available for use by other Virginia varsity sports or recreational activities, as well.
The facility will be built on the middle of the three fields adjacent to McCue Center – which serves, among other things, as the football team’s headquarters – and consist of one 100-yard football field with end zones and five-yard overruns. Its ceiling will be as tall as 65 feet in the center to suit the practice needs of the football team’s kickers.
Typically, the Board of Visitors approves capital projects once every two years, a process that most recently took place in April. When a new capital project is proposed during other times, the university’s Buildings and Grounds Committee, Finance Committee and Board of Visitors must submit their approval.
For the athletic department’s indoor practice facility project, all three of those approvals were granted Friday, which procedurally clears the way for specific design plans to be drawn.
The indoor practice facility project was not put forward for approval in April because at that time it was planned as an “indoor air supported structure,” more commonly known as a bubble, and the athletic department was trying to determine whether they wanted to make it a permanent fieldhouse structure instead.
Eventually, the athletic department decided to go forward with the project as a permanent fieldhouse, which elevated the project’s cost and, thus, raised concerns among university officials about whether could raise the necessary funds to adhere to the school’s construction policies.
Judging by the Board of Visitors’ approval, all of those concerns would seem to have been met sufficiently.