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Northwestern gets approval to build lakefront athletic complex

In September 2012, Northwestern announced that it planned to build a multipurpose athletic complex on prime campus real estate along the shores of Lake Michigan. It wasn’t clear when ground would be broken or how NU would raise enough money for the facility, which was estimated to cost $220 million. On Friday, the university announced it has received a $40 million donation from alumni Kimbra and Mark Walter as part of a $3.75 billion fundraising project for the “We Will. The Campaign for Northwestern."

The educational properties committee of the board of trustees announced that it has approved construction of the lakefront complex, the Chicago Tribune reported Thursday. Construction is expected to begin by early 2015 and take two years to complete. Among the amenities the 500,000-square-foot facility will house are a training center, lounges, team meeting rooms, a fieldhouse capable of seating hundreds of spectators that will also be used for non-sporting events and an indoor practice field.

Recruits that have spoken to InsideNU since plans for the facility were announced less than two years ago have cited the facility as a major selling point. Now coach Pat Fitzgerald can be more specific about when the facility will be built. The Wildcats’ facilities pale in comparison to most other Big Ten schools,’ but this complex should at least help close the gap.

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Mark Walter is controlling owner and chairman of the Los Angeles Dodgers, while Kimbra serves as a member of the Board of Trustees of Goodman Theatre, OneGoal and the Lincoln Park Zoo.

"Mark and I deeply value the way Northwestern approaches all of its endeavors," Kimbra Walter said in a release. "The University emphasizes the highest-caliber experience in all aspects of its education. We are proud to support Northwestern's efforts to attract the most highly-qualified and talented students and to enable them to perform at their best."

The facility is being designed by architectural firm Perkins and Will.

The campaign, which began in 2011 and has already raised $1.52 billion, will require Northwestern to raise about $9 million a week, is being billed by the university as “the most ambitious strategic plan in our history,” and has two stated goals:

- To broaden the University’s base of support among alumni, parents, and friends.

- To raise $3.75 billion in philanthropic investments across all of our schools and units to fund the initiatives of our strategic plan.

Along with the lakefront facility, the campaign will also fund the construction of a new 410, 000-square-foot, lakefront ‘hub’ for the economics department and Kellogg School of Management; a five-story music building that includes a 400-seat recital hall; and a biomedical research building connected to the Robert H. Lurie Medical Research Center on the university’s Chicago campus.

Among the campaign’s other initiatives are endowed professorships, new academic centers and institutes, curriculum expansion, laboratories and academic and research support. All of this is intended to help cement Northwestern’s position “among the world’s leading research universities.”

More than 85,000 donors have already contributed to the campaign, which also seeks to broaden the university’s base of alumni support. Other major donations to the campaign include $25 million from the Querrey Simpson Charitable Foundation, $15 million from the Robert R. McCormick Foundation and $7.5 million from the Shaw Family.

“This monumental campaign seeks to amplify Northwestern’s local and global impact — in everything from breakthrough research discoveries to innovations in creative expression to preparing the global leaders of tomorrow,” Northwestern President Morton Schapiro said. “We will unite as a university community to build an even better Northwestern and to address society’s most critical challenges.”

Here is more information about the campaign, along with renderings for the new on-campus buildings.