UW Athletics Director Gary Barta Announces First Interstate Bank Gift

June 17, 2005

LARAMIE, Wyo. -

Wyoming's Strategic Plan for Intercollegiate Athletics has received another significant boost with the announcement of a $328,000 gift from First Interstate Bank, UW Athletics Director Gary Barta said Friday.

According to Barta, First Interstate Bank, its employees, and the First Interstate BancSystem Foundation contributed to the gift.

"What a wonderful gift, not only from First Interstate Bank, but its employees across the state," Barta said. "This is yet another example of First Interstate's ongoing support of the University of Wyoming."

The bank gift is a three-way match, according to First Interstate Bank Regional President Frank Rotellini. Each local branch bank matched the donations of its employees. The BancSystem Foundation then matched those donations.

"It was one of the most heart-warming campaigns I've been associated with," Rotellini said, "because so many of our employees wanted to be a part of UW and its programs. I'd like to compliment them, and our participating bank presidents who presented the program to their respective staffs, and directors.

"Pledges were received at all levels," Rotellini continued, "from young people just starting out in the business, to one single mother who pledged 50 cents per pay period. They all wanted to participate in helping the university. First Interstate has always been a big supporter of UW because it understands its contributions, and its importance to this state."

"I think this gift demonstrates how much the employees of First Interstate love the University of Wyoming," Gary Negich, President of First Interstate Bank, Laramie, said. "The employees are the ones who drove this gift."

The Strategic Plan for Intercollegiate Athletics was approved by the university trustees in September of 2003 to position UW for success as a member of the NCAA Division I-A Mountain West Conference. A key element of the plan was to address critical facility needs to strengthen the recruitment of student-athletes and coaches, and to enhance the fan experience at War Memorial Stadium.

Among the needs addressed in the plan are: repairing the structure of War Memorial Stadium (upper West stands completed in summer of 2004); replacing the playing surface at the stadium with artificial turf (completion in August 2005); building an indoor practice facility primarily for football and women's soccer, but ultimately benefitting all 17 sports at UW; enhancing the stadium with improved restroom and concession facilities, as well as donor suites; improving the women's tennis facilities; and installing an all-weather track (funded through a gift of the Louis Madrid estate and contributions from families and fans honoring the eight UW cross country student-athletes killed in a 2001 car accident).

"We have received some tremendous contributions over the past few months," Barta said. "It's exciting to see that construction is underway on some of our projects, thanks to these gifts. We realize we must raise more money to get everything done, but thanks to so many generous people, the Athletic Strategic Plan is well underway."

According to Ben Blalock, UW vice president for institutional advancement and CEO of the UW Foundation, this gift brings the university even closer to exhausting the $10 million matching fund for intercollegiate athletics established by the Wyoming State Legislature during its 2004 budget session.

Another major gift that will complete the match is expected in the near future, Barta said .