Last October, University of Nebraska interim President Susan Fritz signed a deal to lease 27 acres of university land to a group of donors for $10 a year.
The rent the university charged wasn’t much, but it’s getting quite a bit back in return: a $23.5 million baseball and softball complex for the University of Nebraska at Omaha that’s completely paid for.
The donor group, operating under a nonprofit vehicle called the Nebraska Philanthropic Trust, pledged to raise the money, come up with the facility plan, hire the contractors and construction managers, and then donate the finished ball complex to UNO.
UNO Chancellor Dr. Jeffery Gold acknowledged that the structure of the deal was not typical of how many university projects have been done in the past, with the planning and oversight in the hands of the university.
But he said the university has had lots of input. The project went through the NU Board of Regents’ business and finance committee. And Trev Alberts, the UNO athletic director, and his coaches have been an integral part of the planning process. The NU Foundation also played a part in the fundraising.
While the process has been different, Gold focuses on the end result.
“At the end of the day, for me, it’s about getting a baseball and softball facility that our students, faculty, staff and community will enjoy for a long time to come,” he said. “If this is the way to get it done, I say thank you very much. Bring on the next one.”
The Nebraska Philanthropic Trust is headed by Sue Morris. She has long served as president of Heritage Services, the powerful philanthropic organization that has been behind most of the major public projects in Omaha over the past three decades. Heritage’s chairman since its founding has been Walter Scott, the retired chairman and CEO of the Kiewit construction company.
Morris said the ball complex is not a Heritage project, though Heritage has served as an adviser to it, having worked with UNO previously on the school’s Baxter Arena, and Scott is supporting it.
Construction oversight on the project has been provided by Tetrad Property Group, the development firm co-founded by W. David Scott, Walter Scott’s son. David Scott is also a donor on the project.
Kiewit is the main building contractor, though it has subcontracted some of the work.
Morris said the prime donors on the project saw the build-then-donate structure as the quickest and most efficient way to get it done. Ultimately, she said most of the leadership for it has come from Alberts, who has played a big role in the fundraising, planning and management.
“We’ve worked very closely with the university on this,” she said.
Walter Scott said in a statement that he particularly liked that the new stadium will be available for youth ballplayers, too.
“It’s our hope that some of the young people who play on this field will someday find themselves back in Omaha, playing in the College World Series,” he said.
The past 10 years of UNO baseball
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