University of Mary makes major progress on new football stadium and other facilities | University

Major upgrades to the University of Mary’s athletic facilities are kicking into high gear.

Shovels could be in the dirt as early as spring 2023 for a new on-campus football stadium, baseball and softball field, outdoor track, grass pitches, aerial dome and other modern amenities, according to the University of Mary Executive Vice President Jerome Richter.

So far, $37 million of the required $87 million has been raised. Land can be started on the overall project, which also includes major landscaping improvements to the campus where the new facilities will be built, when $41.5 million is in the bank.

The project received a big boost earlier this week with a $12 million donation to the school from the Harold Hamm Foundation and Continental Resources.

“This gift was for engineering, yes, but it takes that away from us and it serves as a launch pad for us to focus on athletics in a way that is both intentional and with a great story to tell.” said Richter, who has worked at the university for 11 years. “The donation from the Harold Hamm Foundation and Continental Resources is very important to the overall reach of the project.”

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Bringing football back to campus, and further improvements, has been an ongoing project for over a decade. Initial planning began in 2013 and accelerated with the Vision 2030 fundraising campaign in 2015, with an overall fundraising goal of $272 million. The Lumen Vitae University Center and on-campus field, which allows for indoor athletics competitions on campus, was part of Phase 1 of the project. Phase 2 represents the football stadium, the baseball and softball stadium and other improvements.

“Half of doing anything in fundraising is having a plan that makes sense when you’re in front of a donor,” Richter said. “When you talk about seven and eight numbers, you don’t do it without knowing all the details.”

Fundraising during a pandemic poses major challenges. In fact, it delayed the overall project by about a year. However, the pace at which Richter and the university were able to raise the funds was significant. Richter was quick to point out why he thinks the project has moved forward.

“It was done only because the dear Lord is the one doing it for us, and by that I mean we are blessed through those who believe in us,” he said. “We share the belief with those who give that we serve God, his people and his students with the dollars that are raised because our mission is so strong.”

In modern college athletics, state-of-the-art facilities have become an integral part of competition. Brilliant things, as head football coach Craig Bagnell has often said, can level the playing field with other programs.

“It’s a huge deal for our university in so many ways. It’s that wow factor,” Bagnell said. “I think it’s a testament to our administration’s commitment to athletics. To me, that’s really exciting.

“Once that’s done, we’ll have some of the nicest facilities in Division II. It’s a big, big deal for us.”

Richter certainly understands this aspect.

“I would say to compete at this high level, NCAA Division II, you have to provide an environment that doesn’t take away from the mission of your teams,” Richter said. “We want shiny things, I get it. We want to be able to bring the next great athletes to our campus to compete well, but more importantly, to train well the men and women God wants us to be.”

The new football pitch would be located where the Hegeholz pitch currently stands, directly to the east of the pitch. A plaza would be connected to the stadium, with an outdoor track to the south. The new baseball and softball fields would be pushed up against the south entrance to campus.

Bringing sports back to campus is a trend across the country.

“It’s not that we’re unhappy with where we played. Nothing was bad about it, everything was good,” Richter said. “Bringing outdoor sports back to our campus is better for our university.”

Richter said the University of Mary’s growth was tied to the state’s economy doing the same.

“Monsignor (James Shea) made a very good point at the press conference (Tuesday) in that our rise has been at the same time that North Dakota has grown economically and generated more income and wealth and it made it easier for us to do that,” he said, referring to the university president. “As the Sisters would say, it’s not about me, it’s about the mission. We are touched by success and we will never stop working for it.”

Contact Tribune sportswriter Dave Selvig at (701) 250-8246 or [email protected]

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