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$7 Million Donation To UM Athletic Department

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Courtesy of The University of Montana
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The $7 million donated to the University of Montana’s Athletic Department today is by far the most money ever donated in the department's history.

Kevin and Kyle Washington gave the money on behalf of the The Dennis and Phyllis Washington Foundation. They are sons of the two philanthropists and Montana business moguls.

University officials say the funds will be used to build a new, $14 million football locker room and a student athlete weight room.

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Credit UM Athletic Department
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Locker room view.

UM Athletics Director Kent Haslam says it took roughly eight months to organize and plan exactly how such a large donation would spent, and to show the foundation why it was needed.

"We'd identified this as a need quite a while ago and just had a chance to have Kyle and Kevin on campus and get them down there and show them that this is the facility that we've been using for the past 20 plus years and this is where we'd like to go with this," said Haslam. "Our student athletes spend very little time really, when it comes down to it, in competition. The vast majority of their time is spent in these facilities that serve them, for lack of a better word, behind the house, our academic center, our weight room, our locker room, those facilities that are."

Haslam says the 46,000 square-foot facility will give the athletes more room and centralize where students train on campus.

The Montana University System Board of Regents has to approve the project before construction can begin because the funding comes entirely from private sources. A hearing is scheduled for November.

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Credit Courtesy of The University of Montana
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A graphic design idea of the new UM Strength Center that will be part of the new structure.

Haslam says he hopes to start construction as soon as possible, but it’s too early to say how long the project will take.

"This will be an intricate and a big project that will take some work on a lot of excavating and a lot of it will be subterranean, will be tying back into the tunnel that takes the team down onto the field," said Haslam. "I hate to put an exact time on the groundbreaking but we want to move as quickly as we can, as soon as we get approved from the board."

The foundation has given more than $150 million to the University since it was established in 1988.

Eric Whitney is NPR's Mountain West/Great Plains Bureau Chief, and was the former news director for Montana Public Radio.
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