University of St. Thomas Scores $75 Million for Athletics Facilities

The gift from Lee and Penny Anderson is one of the 10 largest college athletics donations ever and will help the private Minnesota school build a multi-use arena.
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  • The gift is one of the top 10 largest college athletics donations in U.S. history.
  • St. Thomas hopes to partner with community organizations and businesses to use the new arena.
  • The Andersons' previous donation helped open the Anderson Student Center, Anderson Athletic and Recreation Complex, and Anderson Parking Facility.

University of St. Thomas students are getting an early semester present from two longtime university donors: a historic $75 million donation for a new multi-use arena for hockey, basketball, and events.

On Jan. 17, St. Thomas, a private Catholic school in Minnesota, announced the $75 million gift from Lee and Penny Anderson for a new arena. According to the press release, the gift is one of the 10 largest college athletics donations in U.S. history.

The Lee and Penny Anderson Arena will be on the university's south campus. The arena will require $131 million in fundraising and cost an estimated $175 million. St. Thomas aims to break ground in 2024 and open the facility by fall 2025.

"This is about more than just hockey and basketball games — this is a gift that will be transformative for our entire St. Paul campus, enhance the experience of our students, and raise visibility for the university as a whole," said St. Thomas President Rob Vischer. "It also creates a new community and economic asset for the Twin Cities, the state of Minnesota, and the region."

St. Thomas hopes to share the arena with the community by partnering with schools, nonprofits, businesses, youth groups, and other organizations to host events.

The Andersons have surpassed their 2007 donation record of $60 million. Those funds went toward three facilities that opened in 2010: the Anderson Student Center, Anderson Athletic and Recreation Complex (AARC), and Anderson Parking Facility.

"Higher education is one of the world's most important institutions because it truly has an ability to have a positive impact on the world, and the world needs St. Thomas' students and graduates," said Lee Anderson. "For the first time ever, Minnesotans have a private university option for D-I caliber education and athletics, and we're proud to be part of making this vision a reality for young people in Minnesota and beyond."

According to the press release, St. Thomas became the first Division III institution in the modern NCAA to transition directly to Division I sports competition in 2021. The basketball team currently plays at the AARC's Schoenecker Arena.

The men's and women's hockey teams currently play at Saint Thomas Academy's Ice Arena in Mendota Heights, about 7 miles from campus.

"For 138 years, St. Thomas has demonstrated commitment to excellence in all that it does, and this arena shows that same commitment to our Division I transition," said Phil Esten, vice president for athletics. "Tommie hockey and basketball compete in some of the country's best conferences, and this new arena will provide practice, competition and fan experiences expected of a Division I program."