Lutherans in the Twin Cities

Concordia’s field of dreams becoming a reality

The captain of the football team last season, Michael Brooks, couldn’t be
more proud of Concordia University, St. Paul. Still, when he got a chance to
talk about the new planned stadium for the campus, the smile got even wider.
“And they say that the team will be able to play there this fall,” he mentioned
quite enthusiastically. Brooks won’t be playing, as he has gone on to dental
school, but he will definitely be a fixture in the stands, he said.

“It will be wonderful for our student-athletes,” said Concordia University
president Bob Holst. “But it will also be very good for this neighborhood. We
will be more visible, and more young people will be drawn to the campus.”
Smiling, he explained that not everyone stresses plans to make the stadium
available to its neighbors because they don’t want students to worry about
their access to the place before it is even built. “But young people in this area
can really use a good facility,” Holst mentioned.

Concordia University takes seriously its participation in the neighborhood, as
well as the opportunity to be a Lutheran presence there. Excitement over a
stadium that can also be an outreach strategy is understandable.

It is even more than that for the Concordia alumnus whose gift has made the
stadium move from a dream to reality. Everyone who talked about Phil
Fandrei, the stadium donor and a 1951 graduate of Concordia, mentioned
that his favorite statement is “To God be the Glory for the things he has
done!” It has even been suggested that the phrase be engraved above the
entrance of the stadium in honor of Fandrei.

According to a Concordia brochure, Phil Fandrei “used his education to launch
a business that would make him [a] millionaire at age 35.” Fandrei is the
owner of Sea Foam Sales Company, Eden Prairie, Minnesota. Sea Foam was
originally developed as a marine petroleum product, used to revitalize stale
fuel in motorboats that sit in garages over the winter.

This proved a popular product in Minnesota, but grew into an entire line of
products that become nationally recognized. And through hard times and
good, Fandrei has been an ardent and faithful supporter of Concordia,
according to Keith Stout, director of stewardship for the university. “He
learned his philanthropy from his father,” Stout explained. Fandrei’s dad had
sponsored the first football team at Concordia while Phil was playing there.
“So, in some ways, things have come full circle through Phil’s gift for the
stadium.”

Fandrei has made a commitment of $5.5 million dollars toward the new
stadium. With this contribution the university was able to begin construction
immediately, even as it seeks to raise the remainder of the $8.1 million
necessary for phase one of the project. Construction will take place in stages
as the finances come in during a tight economic time.

Fandrei has asked that all donors names be listed together with no greater
designation based on amounts. He wants all people to “give God the glory”
equally.

As track and field coach, I believe we have an awesome responsibility to
transform the lives of the young men and women who come to Concordia,”
said Jonathan Breitbarth. “The stadium will be of great help by providing a
place for transformation to happen.” He added quickly the great respect he
has for Fandrei’s generosity, but also his commitment to the school and his
faith.

Such zeal comes out in a letter Fandrei wrote to other alumni: “I am
experiencing great joy around the thought of the impact this project is going
to have on Concordia and our surrounding community,” he wrote. “It will not
only change this wonderful campus but the entire community. The project
forwards God’s Kingdom and will have a significant impact on our overall
mission.“

While the state legislature debates the merits of a professional football
stadium even as a new baseball stadium and a college stadium are being
built, it is refreshing to have a place where the discussions are not about
subsidies but about service to the neighborhood, where the primary question
isn’t about “what can I get,” but instead, “what can I give.”