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By Matt Kwong

Ryerson cuts the cost of buying naming rights for new engineering building as funding falls short of goal.

Faced with a $23 million shortfall in private funding for the new Centre for Computing and Engineering, Ryerson has slashed its asking price for the building’s naming rights by $5 million.

The university has been courting private sponsors for the $71 million building — slated for a September 2004 opening — but the price drop may suggest difficulty attracting corporate interest.

Initially set at $15 million, the cost of naming the building has since dropped by a third. Ryerson President Claude Lajeunesse said $10 million is the right naming price for the new building.

“We looked around for engineering. We put if at 10 [million dollars],” he said. “A business building can fetch a bit more.”

So far most of the funding for the building has come from a $40 million SuperBuild grant. SuperBuild, a government of Ontario program set up to fund university expansion, requires universities to partially fund construction by attracting private sector donations. In the case of the Centre for Computing and Engineering, the private funding target is $25 million.

Dan Lang, a professor and a financial advisor to the president of the University of Toronto, speculated that Ryerson may have to drop its asking price because the market is flooded with new university buildings looking to be named.

“I think it’s a matter of attracting donors,” he said. “One thing about SuperBuild is the government turned everyone loose at the same time, and because all these colleges and universities were in effect chasing the same donors for matching money, it was a problem of supply and demand.”

So far Ryerson has named four rooms after companies that have contributed $250,000 each towards the project. Other parts of the building are still available for naming.

“Not every single lab will have a name probably,” said Ryerson spokesperson Bruce Piercey. “Just the ones suitable for certain types of donors.”

Vice president university advancement Adam Kahan, Ryerson’s head fundraiser, said  he is confident the university will be able to raise the funds.

“We are getting the money from a variety of sources. I think it’s an excellent plan. We meet individuals and make a case for support,” he said, but refused to elaborate. He said the university had held discussions with several companies interested in having the building named after them.

Kahan isn’t counting on the rights being bought before the building opens.

The university has raised $1.75 million so far – well shy of the $25 million target.

Lang said it was important that the university try to raise as much private funding as possible before the building is complete next fall.

“I’ll tell you the track record for universities raising money after [completion] is not good,” he said. “What I would worry about is does the funding extend over that date.”

Lajeunesse said meeting such a fundraising deadline is not an issue.

“You look at construction and it looks complete. We don’t worry about that.”

— With files from Owen Leitch

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