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By Jeff White (
CHARLOTTESVILLE –– On Oct. 12, the University of Virginia publicly launched its $5 billion fundraising campaign: Honor the Future: the Campaign for the University of Virginia.
As part of that campaign, the University is counting on the Virginia Athletics Foundation (VAF) to raise $500 million to fund key initiatives for the athletics department, including the $180 million Master Plan project and scholarships. The Honor the Future campaign has already reached $2.75 billion, with the athletics portion topping $278 million –– more than $50 million of which has been committed so far in 2019.
While the overall campaign will run through June 30, 2025, UVA Athletics remains focused on completing the Master Plan project as soon as possible. With the rubble from the demolition of University Hall nearly gone, work on readying the site for the construction of two natural grass practice fields for UVA’s football program is under way.
The nearby Training Grounds, which occupies the former Onesty Hall parking lot, is in constant use most days. It houses locker rooms for UVA’s field hockey, men’s cross country and track & field, women’s cross country and track & field, men’s lacrosse, women’s lacrosse, rowing, men’s soccer and women’s soccer teams. Moreover, student-athletes from virtually every sport use the Training Grounds for strength and conditioning, academic advising, and sports nutrition and equipment needs.
The Training Grounds, however, is only temporary. The Master Plan project will feature a new Football Operations Center, a new Olympic Sports Center and renovations to the McCue Center, in addition to the new natural grass practice fields. 
Private gifts will fund the Master Plan project, which began last spring with the demolition of U-Hall, Onesty Hall and the Cage.
Major gifts to the athletics campaign include a $6 million commitment from Molly and Robert Hardie; an anonymous gift of $4 million; and 14 additional commitments of $500,000 or more. Head football coach Bronco Mendenhall and his wife, Holly, have pledged $500,000, as have head men’s basketball coach Tony Bennett and his wife, Laurel.
“The anonymous gift as well as the gift from Robert and Molly Hardie provided a much-needed jolt to fundraising for the capital campaign,” UVa athletics director Carla Williams said. 
“We are also very thankful to the Mendenhalls and the Bennetts for their commitment to the master plan. We have received gifts of all sizes and we are very grateful for the tremendous support. We have some very heavy lifting to do to complete the project by 2023, but we are confident we will reach our goal.”
More than $28 million has been pledged for the $180 million project, and key fundraising thresholds need to be met to keep the project on track. About $7.7 million in cash has been received, and Phase I construction (which includes the football practice fields) will start next month.
The centerpieces of Phase II will be the Football Operations Center and the Olympic Sports Center. 
The Olympic sports facility will include the Center for Citizen Leaders and Sports Ethics, which will provide access to programming for student-athletes from all 27 varsity sports in the areas of career development, academic support, leadership development, personal development, and community engagement.
“We believe UVA is the right place and we believe this is the right time for UVA to lead in the re-emergence of the scholar-athlete ideal,” Williams said on Oct. 12 at an event marking the start of the Honor the Future campaign.
“Scholars and athletes committed to community, discovery and service. Scholar-athletes in all 27 sports competing as champions in all that we do.”
In addition to the Master Plan, fundraising during the campaign will focus on annual giving for scholarships and operations, as well as building upon the VAF’s $88 million scholarship endowment. Overall, more than $50 million has been raised by VAF in 2019. 
The VAF’s annual fund, the primary source of funding for athletics scholarships, has raised $16.7 million so far this year from over 8,700 donors.
“The annual fund total is the highest year-to-date total in our history. We are thankful for the tremendous support from our donors,” said VAF executive director and senior associate athletics director Dirk Katstra. “The cost of scholarships has risen dramatically in the past several years. As we focus on completing the Master Plan, we will need to increase the donor base and continue to build the endowment in order to fully fund all of our scholarships. There are many opportunities for donors to support Virginia Athletics during this campaign.” 
The VAF hopes to hit the $19 million mark in the annual fund by Dec. 31 and will need to continue to raise more each year to cover annual increases in tuition costs.
In the past three years, more than $13 million has been committed to create new endowed scholarships, of which a portion will be matched by University Bicentennial Matching Funds. Recent commitments to create endowed scholarships have increased the VAF endowment to the current $88 million total.