SPEAR: "Things are moving forward”

RECENTLY IDAHO ATHLETICS DIRECTOR ROB SPEAR talked with GoVandals.net to discuss the arena project launched after meeting with Idaho's Regents in February. UI is in the silent phase of a $30 MILLION project that will build a new basketball facility which addresses new game-day, practice, and convention space needs for the program, and provides a long-awaited dedicated home for Vandal basketball.

In February the University of Idaho, led by President Chuck Staben and Athletics Director Rob Spear, informed the State Board of Education – the University of Idaho’s Board of Regents – of its plans to initiate a silent phase of fundraising as the first step toward the construction of a $30 million multi-use arena on the Moscow campus. Dr. Staben, in his second year at Idaho, was making this long-awaited project a University priority.

The silent phase, known as the Leadership Phase, launched shortly after the SBOE meeting and is currently in progress. Because it is still the silent phase of the project no formal announcements have been made yet, but progress is being made, including the hiring of Michael Perry, Special Assistant to the President, to approach lead donors for this crucial phase of the arena project.

GoVandals.net was granted an interview with Idaho Athletics Director Rob Spear to talk about the Leadership Phase of the project, including the University’s commitment to the project, Dr. Staben’s involvement, and new personnel brought on to drive the fund-raising effort.

Below is our conversation.

PAT HAUGE: In February Idaho launched the first leg of a fund-raising campaign to build an entirely privately funded basketball complex – a long-awaited dedicated home for Vandal basketball. How is this leg of the project progressing?

ROB SPEAR: “When you’re in the silent phase a lot of those visits and a lot of those conversations are very confidential. I can tell you things are moving forward, but we really don’t have anything to announce yet.”

PH: Do you think it’s going to take the nine months originally planned to complete this phase, with completion of this phase in the December-January time-frame? Or do you think it’s too unknown at this point?

RS: “It’s unknown at this point.” [EDITOR’S NOTE: Per a Spokesman-Review interview that ran last week, "We are making progress, we are still in the silent phase where we are soliciting lead donors, lead gifts," Spear said. " ... We anticipate over the next three to four months that we’re really going to make some progress there."]

PH: Did the Leadership Phase launch immediately after the SBOE meeting last February, or did it take some time to prepare a plan for this Phase of the project and to start staffing the effort?

RS: “It did start immediately, but there was some delay in really getting going because of the VP for Advancement vacancy.”

PH: Is the University of Idaho still committed to the arena project; is this still a priority for the University?

RS: “Very committed. In fact, with the addition of Mary Kay McFadden, our new Vice President for Advancement, her spouse, Mike Perry, has been assigned as the Special Assistant to the President. His primary focus is to work with the president to approach lead donors, and one of his main priorities is working with us on the arena.”

PH: That’s got to be a significant boost for this fund-raising effort…

RS: “As I’ve said many times, we’ve got to have all hands on deck, and having another experienced individual like Mike Perry involved is a great addition to assist the President and the university with this important project.”

PH: Is this Phase of the project fully staffed now, or are you needing any additional hires to help with the fund-raising process? Besides Mr. Perry, can you tell us who else has been added to your team and what role they fill?

RS: “Mike will play a critical role along with myself and Tim Mooney. We recently hired two new employees in Boise who also will be involved in major gift fundraising.” [EDITOR’S NOTE: Idaho is anticipating formally announcing the two new hires soon.]

PH: This is a big project by most standards, but particularly by UI standards. It will be the most money ever raised privately for a single building on that campus. What has the support been like for this facility by the University community? Are other Colleges involved in the process?

RS: “I wouldn’t say they’re directly involved, but they are working with the President and myself and Mike Perry so we can have access to our entire donor base at the University of Idaho.”

PH: Can you encapsulate Dr. Staben’s involvement with this effort? Has he been integral; has he been involved with this effort?

RS: “He’s very involved, and he’s been on several visits with Mike Perry. He participated in a dialogue dinner we had in CDA last June. Again we’re in the silent phase, but the President has been very active.”

PH: Has the design changed at all?

RS: “No …. I mean it ultimately probably will change because what you see now are schematics. I think the foundation of what you see with the arena, and 5000 seats, and practice gym, and certainly the conference center on the side, will all fundamentally stay unchanged. But it probably will look a little different at the conclusion of the project.”

PH: Can you describe the University of Idaho Foundation’s roll in the fund-raising effort? Are they involved, and is that through Mary Kay McFadden?

RS: “Mary Kay is the VP of Advancement, so she handles all the fund-raising activities at the University of Idaho.

“The Foundation, as you know, is a separate 501(c)(3) made up of a board of directors. I’m not the person to speak about their involvement, or their future involvement, in this project. “I know there are many Foundation board members that are interested and understand the need, and how important this project is.”

PH: The original goal was to raise about $15 MILLION during the private part of this campaign, is that still the target for this phase?

RS: “For the silent phase that’s a good number.”

PH: Will most of this sum come from corporate sponsors?

RS: “Not necessarily. It’s going to have to come from a variety of areas and a variety of ideas, and some in-kind contributions. So there are a lot of pieces to the puzzle.”

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