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Millions needed for U.Va.'s arena
Fund-raising goal is proving a challenge with deadline looming
Long-term major debt looms for athletic department


Jun 20, 2006

CHARLOTTESVILLE -- When officials at the University of Virginia launched an ambitious campaign to build a replacement for University Hall, they hoped to meet their fund-raising goal by the time the John Paul Jones Arena opened.

Barring an enormous influx of gifts in the next month, that won't happen. With U.Va.'s 15,000-seat arena nearing completion -- the JPJ is the centerpiece of a project that also includes a parking deck and access road -- millions of dollars still must be raised.

The official cost of the project is $130 million, and virtually all must be privately funded. U.Va. entered this month with about $112 million in pledges and gifts, said Dirk Katstra, the university's associate athletic director for external affairs.

About $40 million is from Paul Tudor Jones, the U.Va. graduate for whose father the arena is named. The university continues to pursue corporate sponsors, and naming opportunities remain in the building near the intersection of Emmet Street and Massie Road.

"It's been a challenge," said Katstra, who's also executive director of the Virginia Athletics Foundation, the school's fund-raising arm for athletics. "A $130 million building, all privately funded, with a pretty short timetable to get it done. Every gift you miss on, you've got to make up someplace else."

Solicitations that would bring in around $15 million are under consideration this month from prospective donors. In all, Katstra said, the school probably will have to raise at least $150 million to pay for the project.

Some of the money for construction must be borrowed, and so there will be debt service to pay off. The arena's 20 luxury suites, leased every five years, will provide revenue that will help pay off the arena debt.

"A lot depends on how people actually pay their gifts," said Katstra.

Some pledges, for example, are spread over five years.

"If we had $130 million in cash in today, we'd be done," Katstra said.

"We're going to keep needing to raise money to support the project. We're hopeful we can get to $130 [million] soon and then figure out where we go from there."

The company that will manage the John Paul Jones Arena, SMG, is scheduled to move into the building this week. The first public event at the arena, a Cirque Du Soleil show, is set for Aug. 1.

The men's basketball team will move its offices from University Hall to the new arena in August, after the summer recruiting period ends.

A deadline is looming. At the end of this month, donors who have made arena gifts of $10,000 or more will be ranked. In July and August, they'll be able to pick out their seats, based on how much they've given.

Katstra praised the generosity of donors. As of late April, he said, U.Va. had received 10 gifts of at least $1 million.

"It just takes a lot of gifts to add up to $130 million," Katstra said.
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