In early February, the University of Minnesota athletic department and the Golden Gopher Fund hosted a fundraiser in an effort to re-energize support to bring a new on-campus home for the UM Baseball team. “Bottom of the 9th” focused on reinvigorating donor interest in the Siebert Field Legacy Campaign as the project to replace the old on-campus baseball field nears its completion. The evening attracted many potential donors along with current and former Gopher Baseball players, who came for a night that featured keynote speeches from Hall of Famers and former UM players Paul Molitor and Dave Winfield. The athletic department was also able to utilize media personalities Michele Tafoya and Ryan Lefebvre, both of whom have previously been associated with the Gophers, to co-emcee the evening.
In total approximately 450 people attended “Bottom of the 9th” which was hosted in the DQ Club at TCF Bank Stadium. Tickets for the dinner and program were $250 and a table for ten could be purchased with a $2,000 donation to the campaign. Furthermore, a VIP package option was offered at $3,000 and included a table for ten and a private pre-event reception with the keynote speakers. Additional funds were raised for the campaign through a live and silent auction.
The urgency for a new baseball stadium project intensified recently as the Metrodome, which was scheduled to host all home games during the 2011 Gopher Baseball season, became unusable due to the roof collapsing in December. Minnesota Head Coach John Anderson was able to secure a few alternative venues for this year but the fact of the matter remains that the Baseball program needs a permanent home close to campus. To date, $4 million of the total $7.5 million goal has been raised. Minnesota athletics director Joel Maturi is optimistic about reaching the fundraising goal for the Siebert Field Legacy Campaign, but is also realistic on how much work needs to be done in the future. Maturi stated, “We’ve never been so close to bringing a new baseball stadium to the University of Minnesota. We’re not behind in the bottom of the 9th, but we’re not ahead either.”
This event serves as a great example of how an athletic department can put momentum back into a capital project that is getting close to completion. Additionally, the timing of the event provided a nice way to engage current donors and identify new prospects as excitement builds towards the new baseball season.