PISCATAWAY, N.J. (AP) — Rutgers has raised more than $50 million since the start of the year in its campaign to build new athletic facilities and upgrade others in a bid to become more competitive in the Big Ten Conference.
Athletic director Patrick Hobbs said the university has received more than $29.3 million in cash and pledges since the fundraising drive started after Gov. Chris Christie signed legislation granting $25 million of tax credits toward the building of a multisport training center — the centerpiece of the three projects in the master plan that was announced on Jan. 20.
The two other projects include a lacrosse, tennis and soccer complex and enhanced football facilities at the Hale Center.
Hobbs said university has received 10 donations of more than $1 million, including three of largest gifts to Rutgers Athletics, which combine to exceed $11 million.
The campaign has attracted 923 donors, with 71 committing more than $25,000.
"Let's say I am happy where we are and we have a lot of work to do, but 15 weeks in, I feel we are making some real progress," said Hobbs, who was hired in late November after Julie Hermann was fired in the wake of off-the-field problems with the football team.
Prior to the current campaign, the most money Rutgers raised for athletics was $14 million in the 2014-15 fiscal year.
During Greg Schiano's storied tenure as football coach, it could not raise $30 million for an end-zone expansion of the then Rutgers Stadium in 2008. The university eventually had to borrow some money to complete the job.
Hobbs said that 90 percent of the current donations have been earmarked toward the multisport training complex, which will be built for practice facilities for the men's and women's basketball team, wrestling and the gymnastics program.
"That facility is really important," Hobbs said. "I've talked about how that facility is not just important for the benefits that it provides our programs, but it's our signal that we are going to be competitive, we are going to compete in the Big Ten and we are going to compete in the Big Ten to win championships."
Architects are preparing renderings for the building, taking note of what other schools have said they did wrong in preparing their facilities. He has no timetable for the start of construction but added that current high school recruits would work out in it if they came to Rutgers.
Hobbs said once construction starts it could take about two years to finish the project.
"Everybody wants to do this the right way. Everybody feels this moment right now for Rutgers," Hobbs said. "We're going to do this. We want to get it done, but we're going to take our time and make sure it's done the right way and we are at the top of the Big Ten in terms of the quality of that facility."
Hobbs said the record-setting gifts were provided by Chairman of the Rutgers Board of Governors and Motorola Solutions CEO Greg Brown and his wife Anna, real estate developer Steven Plofker and makeup mogul Bobbi Brown, and business leaders and philanthropists Jeff and Amy Towers.
"Rutgers is a leading national university and we want to compete for championships in all that we do," Greg Brown said. "It is essential that we capitalize on the opportunity that Big Ten Conference membership provides us.".
Hobbs said that he will consider the fundraising effort successful when it has 10,000 donors.