WEST TERRE HAUTE —
Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College has launched the public phase of an $11 million fundraising campaign to build a new, 36,000-square-foot sports and recreation center.
The college kicked off the Pomeroy Pride campaign Friday with a gala fundraiser at Providence Center.
“We’re trying to build some excitement,” said Dottie King, SMWC president. “It’s the first new building at the college in many years.”
Currently, the college doesn’t have a gymnasium on campus, she said.
The building site is tentatively planned for the west edge of campus, behind the Mary and Andy Rooney Library. It would have an NCAA regulation-sized gym seating about 1,000 spectators as well as a practice gym that could be used for intramural sports.
It also would feature a 2,000-square-foot lobby, with flexible space for functions and activities, as well as locker rooms, a training room, a fitness room and storage space.
A new facility will help recruit students, and in particular, student-athletes, who comprise 30 percent of the campus student body, King said.
It also would enable the college to add new sports, such as volleyball, and address health and wellness needs of students, faculty, staff and the community.
In addition, summer youth camps and other programs would provide revenue to the college.
SMWC has already raised $6.5 million during the quiet phase of the campaign. The goal is to raise the money and start construction as soon as possible, King said.
In the past, students used a non-regulation size gym owned by the Sisters of Providence, but it is no longer in use.
For several years, the basketball team has played its home games at a community center in Clinton. “They’ve been very gracious to us,” King said.
But the college really wants a facility of its own and a place to play home games, she said. “Our students never have that home game experience that we really crave to provide,” especially as part of the cross-town rivalry with Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology, King said.
Not having a gym can also make it more difficult to recruit athletes, she said. “The first thing an athlete might want to know is, where is the gym?” she said.
The college’s athletic teams “do amazingly well despite the fact we don’t have a gymnasium on our campus,” King said.
As a group, SMWC athletes maintain a higher grade-point average and are leaders on campus. “These students deserve facilities that are commensurate to their achievements on the court, the field and in the classroom,” King said.
The college currently offers seven sports: basketball, cross country, golf, soccer, softball, as well as hunt seat and western equestrian teams.
A new facility, which will include a fitness room, is important in recruiting all students, not just athletes. “It’s something students expect to find here,” King said.
All students will be able to participate in fitness and wellness programs, cheer at home games and get involved in intramural sports.
King recently read an article that indicated one of the 10 best practices to help a small, private college grow is to build a sports/recreation facility.
“It just re-energizes the campus,” King said. “We’ve not had any new construction on this campus for so long that this building becomes for us very symbolic of moving forward.”
Deanna Bradley, SMWC athletic director and head basketball coach, said a new sports and recreation facility will help recruit athletes, but it also will be a place for all students to work out and get involved in recreational activities.
“It would be a totally different dynamic for us,” said Bradley, who is in her 22nd year as the college’s athletic director.
SMWC basketball player Whitney Allen believes the new facility “could completely turn the campus around.”
Allen, a senior, said the team now goes to Clinton for its practice sessions and games. Team members appreciate being able to use the community center there, “But it’s hard for people on campus to come to our games,” she said.
Some students are busy with their own activities, and if they are from out-of-town, they may not know how to get to the Clinton facility.
“I feel we’d have a lot bigger crowd if students could just walk across campus,” Allen said. Also, the new facility will be a good motivator for all students to exercise.
While Allen won’t get to play in the new facility, she’s excited for those who will. “I’ll watch future teams play there,” she said.
The new facility, which will have Silver LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification, would also house offices for the athletic program.
Sue Loughlin can be reached at (812) 231-4235 or email@example.com.
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