University public relations people ushered some two dozen reporters seven stories up to the roof of the McNamara Alumni Center to look down on the white lines etched across a parking-lot blacktop. After a year of demolition and disruptive road realignments around the stadium site, university officials hope the painted grid will offer a new picture of the stadium's future on campus.
Taking in the bird's-eye vista, TCF Bank President Mark Jeter said the coming construction efforts will make the project more real for the public.
"I think as people see this facility erected and see it going up, it's going to gain a lot of momentum and they're going to say, 'Hey, this is going to be a reality' and I think you'll see everything fall into place on the financial side," he said.
Stadium supporters have about $28 million to go in the private fundraising drive. That's about 10 percent of the project's total construction cost. Fundraising has so far focused mainly on large donations, with the effort to tap into the fan base yet to launch.
Back on the ground, University President Robert Bruininks said there's plenty of time left to make up the difference.
"The private fundraising is going very well," he said. "Actually we're ahead of schedule where we thought we would be at this point in the process. So I'm really optimistic we'll raise the required resources."
Newly hired football coach Tim Brewster cheered on a massive backhoe as it tore into a bare patch of ground where workers will dig out 50,000 cubic yards of earth.
This is the second ceremonial groundbreaking, one that stamps the Brewster brand on the project. The first ceremony featured coach Glen Mason, who was fired shortly afterwards.
Brewster stood on the blank asphalt and envisioned game day.
"The tunnel will be in the end zone, our team will come out of the tunnel. We'll acknowledge our students -- that's one of the things that we really want to do -- we'll have 10,000 screaming students in that 50,000-seat stadium, we'll come to our sideline," he said.
Next month, workers will start driving the first of some 2,800 steel pillars into the ground to support the stadium footings. Brewster says the concrete work that will bring the structure's shape into better focus is scheduled to begin in early 2008.
"Now as you drive by you're going to see something come up out of the ground and how exciting it's going to be to follow the progress of this stadium. It's just amazing."
The stadium financing also relies on the team's ability to fill the stadium with fans once it's open.