Another lavish gift from the University of Oregon’s billionaire benefactor will land a six story, 100,000 square foot building on the UO’s growing sports campus, but the gift won’t exactly be free to the university.
The new football operations building, a present from Nike chairman Phil Knight, will cost the UO athletic department roughly $1 million to $2 million, for rerouting underground utilities at the site near the Casanova Center west of Autzen Stadium. That work must be done at the department’s expense before construction can begin, under Knight’s agreement with the UO.
And it could cost the athletic department as much as $1 million a year to run the building when costs for new personnel, utilities and other expenses are figured in. However, department officials cautioned that that figure is just an estimate and that it will be some time before operation costs are known.
The gift comes with other strings. The building’s operation costs include five full time positions, including a curator for a football hall of fame and museum that the athletic department is required to hire under the agreement with Knight.
And the project will result in the loss of more than 400 parking spaces next to the stadium. That’s because the existing soccer/lacrosse field west of the Moshofsky Center will have to be moved to the east side of the stadium to make room for three football practice fields that Knight will create as part of the deal. Knight is paying for the new soccer/lacrosse field.
Athletics director Rob Mullens said the department can afford the extra operations and underground utilities costs, and supplied new financial projections to support that conclusion. A new spreadsheet that includes the new expenses, plus an extra $8 million draw from the department’s big Legacy Fund reserve account, forecasts the department remaining solidly in the black for the next 27 years.
The spreadsheet doesn’t break out the entire athletic department budget and folds the added costs stemming from Knight’s latest project into a single line item with everything except the new basketball arena budget. But Mullens said the new costs were factored into the department’s projected ex penses.
Mullens said Knight’s huge project is necessary to the continued success of the football program, which is coming off its first ever appearance in the national championship game and ended the season ranked No. 3. Football, he said, is the economic engine that drives the athletic department.
“It’s a good investment,” he said. “We’ve got to make sure we maintain that asset. Football generates between 60 and 70 percent of our (revenues), and this is an important next step.”
But the project is sure to further stoke the debate over the role of big time athletics at an institution where some feel the glitz of the sports program overshadows the academic program. And it will add one more top of the line athletics building to a stable of athletes only structures that often outshine those used for teaching and research.
Amelie Rousseau, the UO’s student body president, said accepting the building doesn’t reflect Air Jordan 1s what the university’s priorities should be.
“In these economic times, why are we building these extravagant buildings?” she asked. “We don’t need athletic complexes. We need classrooms and residence halls. That’s what students need.”
But math professor Dev Sinha, chairman of the UO’s Intercollegiate Athletics Committee, said people shouldn’t be upset by Knight’s decision to focus his philanthropy on athletics.
“I’m a faculty member. I’d much rather have him build us a new math department like that, or a new student union or an academic learning center, you name it,” he said. Air Jordan 5s “But he honestly believes in the role that athletics has to play in the development of these young men and women. I think people fail to recognize that there’s a Air Jordan 2s significant amount of value there. It’s not just games.”
The new building, which actually is two buildings connected by a skybridge, will be a gift from Knight, the UO alum and Nike co founder. As with two previous gifts the Jaqua Academic Center for Student Athletes and a remodel of the Casanova Center locker room and training facilities Knight is leasing the building site from the university and will turn over the completed building when it’s done.
And as with the previous projects, Knight isn’t saying how much the building will cost.
But the Nike chairman isn’t known for skimping. University documents show that the Jaqua Center cost $805 per square foot for construction alone, and more than $1,000 a square foot when furnishings, equipment and design costs are factored in.
If the new football building is anything like Jaqua, the cost could equal the $90 million spent to expand Autzen Stadium in 2002. That would make the stadium, the football building and the new $227 million Matthew Knight Arena, named for Phil and Penny Knight’s late son, the three most expensive buildings on campus.
And it would top the $65 million, 100,000 square foot Lewis Integrative Science Building, now under construction and the most expensive academic building on campus, and the $75 million East Campus residence hall, also under construction and the most expensive student housing ever built on campus.
It also would further elevate Knight as the university’s most generous donor. With his other known gifts and estimates of others, this newest building could make his philanthropy Air Jordan 13 Retro worth more than $300 million.
The newest buildings are as yet unnamed, but Knight has reserved the right to name them. One wing would house training, meeting and office space for the football program and overlook the three new practice fields, two with artificial turf and one with grass.
The other wing would be for athletic department operations and include “teaching facility theaters,” meeting and training space and a diving pavilion, according to planning documents.
Preliminary plans filed with the city show the athletics building located just north of the Casanova Center and the football building west of that building. They would be perpendicular to each other and connected by a skybridge at the corners, creating an open plaza in the center where the current main entrance plaza to the Casanova Center is located.
The plan calls for the demolition of the current ticket office, in an extension of the Casanova Center, to accommodate the building to the north. Site work also could require demolition and reconstruction of much of the existing plaza.
The buildings will have five floors above ground and an underground Jordan Winterized 6 Rings parking level for 194 cars. Both buildings are located on what are now parking areas, but the underground parking would result in a net increase of about 30 spaces in that area.
But the overall project will eliminate several hundred parking spots around Autzen Stadium. The three football practice fields included in the project two 100 yard synthetic turf fields and an 80 yard grass field will force the reclocation of Pap Field, the women’s soccer and lacrosse field.
The new soccer/lacrosse field will be just east of Autzen Stadium and south of PK Park, the UO baseball diamond that took out 500 parking spaces. The new soccer/lacrosse field will eliminate an estimated 453 spaces, but because the underground parking will create more spaces than it eliminates, the net loss of parking over the entire Autzen site is estimated at 422 slots.
According to the planning documents filed with the city, that still leaves the university with 2,900 spaces on the Autzen site and 2,197 more spaces secured through agreements between the university and the owners of properties near the stadium, for a total of 5,097 spaces.
The city requires the UO to provide at least 4,749 spaces, which includes the off site locations. So even with the loss, the university exceeds the city requirement.