University officials say the $10 million that goes toward stadium construction is the largest single gift in the history of Gopher athletics. And it comes from a source that even Shakopee Tribal Chairman Stanley Crooks at first thought surprising.
"When they approached us I said, well why would we want to do that?" Crooks said. "I said I want to know more about how the stadium's going to develop and what (we) role play there. And when they explained not only would we be able to dictate how the plaza is going to be laid out there's also the opportunity for the matching scholarship, that got my attention."
The donation allows the tribe to help name and shape the design of the new stadium's main gate area. Officials with the university and the tribe don't have any additional details, but say it will honor the contributions and heritage of Minnesota's 11 Indian tribes. Part of the money, $2.5-million, will go toward a scholarship endowment. The money will be matched by the university. The scholarship will give preference to American Indians, but officials say it's open to any low-income applicants.
U of M President Robert Bruininks called his meetings with Crooks and other tribal officials inspiring.
"It was a meeting in which we talked about the vision for this gift and what he and his community were trying to accomplish," Bruininks said. "We spent more time talking about the scholarship commitment and the importance and fundamental values of education, the critical importance of giving young folks a head start in life."
The university needs to raise $86 million from private sources for the stadium. This gift knocks down the remaining funds needed from private donors to $13 million. The largest single stadium donor is TCF Bank, which secured naming rights with a $35-million deal. That agreement is considered more of an ongoing sponsorship that includes advertising and exclusive business arrangements. The Shakopee donation is viewed as a gift that carries no commercial benefit for the tribe.
The Shakopee Mdewakanton own and operate Mystic Lake Casino and affiliated businesses. It is among the nation's wealthiest tribes. Tribal officials say over the past ten years they have donated over $100 million to other tribes, governments and social service agencies. The tribe has already given more than $1.5 million for Indian scholarships. Chairman Crooks says the tribe has loaned another $100 million out to help businesses and tribal services.
The tribe has specific prohibitions against supporting certain events such as music festivals, rodeos, beauty contests and film production. The policy also bans support of adult sports teams. Crooks said college sports qualifies, however. In addition he made sure to delineate the source of funds as coming from tribal grants, not direct casino money.
"We don't consider this gambling revenues. We consider this tribal revenues used to promote amateur sports so that's the distinction we've been trying to provide out there."
The $289 million dollar TCF Bank Stadium is scheduled to open for the 2009 Gopher football season.