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Gopher Football: Public Request for Proposal Gives Insight into Facilities

The University has submitted a public RFP for predesign work and construction of a Student Athlete Excellence Center. What does it all mean?

Gopher Gridiron

A special (h/t) goes out to commenter Freealonzo for pointing this out to us. Thanks!

Facilitiesmas - Now With Kill Comments

Earlier today, GoAUpher started a discussion regarding Coach Jerry Kill's rather public comments to BTN's Tom Dienhart about breaking ground on a new indoor practice facility (IPF) for Gopher football next spring. Several local media outlets picked up on the comment, yet another in a string of anecdotes from Kill and local rumormongers,  and queried the athletic department. The department, in turn, gave the boilerplate response on these sort of matters: Mumble mumble silent phase, grumble mumble good progress, rabble rabble.

Well, today we've uncovered actual, solid information that something concrete is happening with regards to new facilities. Behold: a Request for Proposal.

What's a Request for Proposal?

Exactly what it sounds like. An RFP, according to the bastion of undisputed truth on the Internet, is:

a solicitation made, often through a bidding process, by an agency or company interested in procurement of a commodity, service or valuable asset, to potential suppliers to submit business proposals.[1] It is submitted early in the procurement cycle, either at the preliminary study, or procurement stage.

The U, being a large public entity, can't do anything big like designing and constructing a new building on campus without first having solicited for said work publicly. So, it stands to reason that if we were going to see something tangible with regard new athletic facilities, we'd see a RFP from the U in an official fashion. That's exactly what above link is.

What is the Project Behind this RFP?

It's a proposal for "Phase I of the 'Athletes Village,' a multi-facility complex intended to serve the entire Intercollegiate Athletics community." Specifically,

Phase I is anticipated to include the following components:

A.   Significant site preparations and infrastructure work (includes Predesign and Design Services).

B.    Exploration of district-energy strategies, in coordination with UMN Energy Management staff (includes Predesign and Design Services).

C.    Construction of a mixed-use Student Athlete Excellence Center with supporting site improvements and infrastructure (includes Predesign and Design Services).

D.   Predesign and coordination for adjacent athletic/practice facilities as described in the Vision (includes Predesign Services ONLY).

E.    Utility Condition Assessment

Emphasis is mine. In simpler terms, the Board of Regents wants someone to scope out a project that will include existing site cleanup and preparation, infrastructure design for the entire phase and, of course, building a Student Athlete Excellence Center.

What's the Excellence Center?

Pretty much what you'd expect:

The Excellence Center itself is intended to be a flagship facility for the entire Golden Gopher Athletics program, with an emphasis on developing the total person. The Excellence Center is anticipated to require between 57,000-75,000 GSF or more, depending on building configuration and program elements to be determined by the Predesign process.

The proposed facility is envisioned with the following components, at a minimum. All incorporate significant systems/technology components and will require flexible space programs:

1.     A nutrition center and training table to ensure that all student athletes are eating the right foods, not only to develop as athletes, but to learn good eating habits for life;

2.     A leadership development center where student athletes will have the opportunity to learn life skills, participate in internship programs with Fortune 500 companies and develop as a person;

3.     Academic support facilities for student athletes to ensure success in the classroom;

4.     Athletics branding, the latest technology and vibrant signage/graphics in keeping with University of Minnesota standards.

That's cool stuff, though how does it fit in to the Athletics Village, or AV (i.e. why is the first building to see an RFP?)

The design of the Excellence Center is critical to the success of future phases. The proposed site occupies a central location within the district, and is tightly defined by major utility networks, easements and existing and proposed circulation routes intended to serve the Athletics community as well as the general public. The Predesign process will define a footprint for the Excellence Center that will influence subsequent implementation phases of the Vision.

So they have to build the Excellence Center first to determine how everything else will fit around it. Gotcha.

What's the Timeline, and Who's Paying?

The finalized proposal(s) are to be presented at the Board of Regents meeting on February 12-13, 2015. It's unlikely that any significant action on the Excellence Center and/or AV Predesign will occur without approval from the BOR.

The payment part of the Excellence Center is intriguing. As outlined in the Scope Matrix, any predesign scope of services for the Excellence Center must "develop cost estimate to support Capital Budget amendment," while the three other facilities of note - the football IPF, football support facility and basketball IPF - merely require an "update to inform fundraising." Assuming makes an ass out of you and me, but there is a bit of indication here that the BOR might fork over some coin for this facility (and the surrounding infrastructure) regardless of the fundraising-dependent timelines of the other buildings.

Anything New About the Football Stuff?

Sure thing boss! Look at all these nuggets buried in the addendum:

  • 70,200 sq. ft. parking facility beneath the new IPF with 237 underground parking spots.
  • Potentially 51,000(!) sq. ft. for football strength and conditioning, and equipment. [For perspective, the existing weight room is 7,500 sq. ft. Nebraska's "Ndamukong Suh Strength & Conditioning Center" is approximately 20,000 sq. ft. Alabama's is 37,000 sq. ft.]
  • 91,250 sq. ft. for a new football IPF. For comparison's sake, FSU's recently built IPF is 92,000 sq. ft.
  • 51,000 sq. ft. on the second floor of the football support building (above the weight room, presumably) dedicated to locker room, training staff offices, meeting rooms and player's lounge. The existing 15,600 sq. ft. where the football offices and meeting rooms are located now will be repurposed for academic services.
  • 24,600 sq. ft. for men's and women's basketball indoor practice courts.
  • 18,000 sq. ft. for basketball locker rooms, hydrotherapy and equipment.
  • 18,000 sq. ft. on the second floor of the basketball support facility for basketball administration suites and training.
  • 10,000 sq. ft. "Hall of Fame"
  • Bridge over the train tracks running parallel to 5th Street.
  • Repurposing of "Pitino's Wall" into two story facility: plyometrics on the first floor and wrestling space on the second.
Cool stuff huh?

Would They Really Build an EC without the Rest of the Village?

The predesign phase(s) will likely be completed in unison, which projects an image of smoldering crater where the track used to be while the U waits potentially years for funds to build the rest. Our Crazy Horse Monument, if you will.

Silent Fundraising - How Does It Work?

Just my speculation here, but I suspect Norwood and the gang are closer to the amount they need to start construction (aka the end of the silent phase) then they're willing to announce. Indeed, many of the local reporters (of varying degrees of credibility on these matters) have hinted about potential donors and/or local corporations stepping up to bat, so rumors are certainly swirling beneath the surface.

Still, the U is specifically requesting this RFP to support predesign for the entire AV, though the Excellence Center is the priority. That's sounds like quid pro quo to the BOR, that hey! it's not just about an athletics facility arm's race. But really, yes it is.

What about Kill's Comments to the Media?

In light of all this information, I take the context of Jerry's public mentions of breaking ground next spring as pressure on Norwood to keep moving ahead with securing the funds needed to begin construction. Indeed, if Teague really was that far along, we'd already know. [Again with the whole "the U can't do anything that big without making something public."] Kill is no dummy: he knows when he has leverage.

On the flip side, Jerry is also close enough to the situation to know when and where to make such comments. It's no surprise that Kill's public mentions about potential facilities came before an assembled audience of regional and national media at Big Ten Media Days and later, the BTN Season Preview Tour. Is this a potential recruiting tactic? Absolutely. Kill is trying to market and distinguish his program, and it's easier for him to push ahead with an, um, optimistic timeline versus the department, who services a much different audience.

What Next?

Just like before, we're all waiting for an end of the silent phase. I bet we'll hear of major announcements before then, since mega-donors and corporate execs love to have their egos stroked. The BOR will have to approve Phase I of the RFP, which won't happen until next spring. Construction will begin... sometime after that.