Gift to Oregon comes with strings

EUGENE — A gift of a new football operations building from a billionaire benefactor to the University of Oregon won't exactly be free.

According to The Register-Guard, the building from Nike Inc. chairman Phil Knight is going to cost the university athletic department.

For example, costs include rerouting underground utilities — an estimated expense of between $1 million and $2 million. Knight's agreement with the university requires that the work be done at the department's expense before construction can begin.

Costs to operate the building include five full-time positions, including a curator for a football hall of fame and museum that the athletic department is required to hire under the agreement with Knight.

But athletics director Rob Mullens said the department can afford the work, and other expenses as well, if the department draws millions from its reserve account.

Plans call for a six-story, 100,000-square-foot building on the university's growing sports campus. It could cost the athletic department as much as $1 million a year to run the building when costs for new personnel, utilities and other expenses are figured in.

Department officials, however, cautioned that the figure is just an estimate and operation costs won't be known for some time.

The project also will result in the loss of more than 400 parking spaces next to the stadium. That's because the existing soccer/lacrosse field west of the Moshofsky Center will have to be moved to the east side of the stadium to make room for three football practice fields that Knight will create as part of the deal.

Knight is paying for the new soccer/lacrosse field.

Mullens supplied new financial projections to support his conclusion that the athletic department can afford the new building with an extra $8 million draw from the department's big Legacy Fund reserve account.

Mullens said the project is necessary to the continued success of the football program, which is coming off its first-ever appearance in the national championship game and ended the season ranked No. 3.

Football is the economic engine that drives the athletic department, he said.

"It's a good investment," he said. "We've got to make sure we maintain that asset. Football generates between 60 and 70 percent of our (revenues), and this is an important next step."

UO Student Body President Amelie Rousseau said accepting the building doesn't reflect what the university's priorities should be.

"In these economic times, why are we building these extravagant buildings?" she asked. "We don't need athletic complexes. We need classrooms and residence halls. That's what students need."

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