Idaho AD Club
The Idaho Arena received a funding boost this year with a $500,000 pledge from the longstanding Idaho AD Club — a group of alumni and athletics enthusiasts that has spent decades committed to support the university and its student-athletes.
The club’s origins date back to the 1940s, when a group of 11 Moscow businessmen joined together to find a way to use the profits from slot machines to support the university. At the time, gambling via slot machines was legal in Idaho, as long as the proceeds went to nonprofit causes.
The businessmen formed a nonprofit corporation, appointed a board of directors and pledged $300 each to acquire three apartments in the Idaho Hotel in downtown Moscow. The apartments were renovated into a social club with slot machines, and the Idaho AD Club (which most trustees think stood for “Athletic Development,”) was born.
Adults could apply for membership, socialize and play slot machines. While college students weren’t allowed join, the club did employ several student-athletes.
“Our mission has not changed,” said Bob Steele, current AD Club trustee and retired executive director of Trusts and Investment Management for the University of Idaho and the University of Idaho Foundation.
Since its inception, the group has made annual contributions to the Vandal Scholarship Fund, supported several Kibbie Dome expansions and restorations, and supported the men’s basketball team’s trip to China in 2016. In 2011, the Idaho AD Club was inducted into the university’s 1889 Society, which recognizes donors and partners with a lifetime giving total of $1 million or more.
The group’s members were enthusiastic about supporting the university’s planned court sports and events arena.
“Being loyal Vandal Boosters, we think it’s a good project,” Steele said. “ The university needs a standalone facility for basketball, volleyball and other events. It makes a lot of sense.”
When the state of Idaho declared slot machines illegal in the early 1950s, the club’s board of directors dissolved the nonprofit corporation and created The Idaho AD Club Memorial Scholarship Trust to continue to support athletics. Thanks to the investment expertise of founding member Eugene Slade (U of I Business Manager Emeritus and recipient of the Alumni Association’s Silver & Gold Award and Idaho Treasure Award) the trust has grown substantially over the decades, all to the benefit of student-athletes. In addition to investing the Trust’s assets, the Trustees created an endowment with the University of Idaho Foundation in 1999. The endowment is invested by the Foundation and its annual earnings are used to provide scholarships for U of I student-athletes.
To remain true to its mission, the AD Club has required all trustees to have a detailed understanding of Vandal Athletics, along with investment, accounting, business and/or legal expertise. The four current trustees carry on that tradition: All are U of I alumni, three grew up in Moscow and two are related to the original members who created the Idaho AD Club in 1941.
“We love the environment of Moscow,” said trustee Jim Pilcher, a certified public accountant who also sits on the advisory council for the university’s Operation Education Scholarship Program. “And we love the University of Idaho.”