ST. MARY-OF-THE-WOODS —
With more than half of its $11 million goal raised, officials for Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College gathered Friday for a ground blessing of the site expected to house the college’s first sports and recreation center.
“While we are not yet breaking the ground, this is maybe the most important first step,” SMWC President Dottie King said during the ceremony, “because we know if God does not join our labors, then we are laboring in vain. So it is right and fitting that as a Catholic institution we ask Him to come and bless this ground.”
King said the college “has a lot of work to be done. We are not finished,” she told those attending as the college is continuing its fundraising effort, which kicked off its public campaign Oct. 12 after a silent start.
Prior to the ceremony, Deanna Bradley, SMWC athletic director/basketball coach, said the facility will allow the college to add new sports such as volleyball.
“Volleyball will help us add another sport to the program and can lead us in different directions, potentially with the NAIA [National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics]. It will be so exciting to bring a student athlete, a recruit, on campus to be able to show them this facility, brand new and the different options of using it,” Bradley said.
The Woods currently is in the United States Collegiate Athletic Association as an independent. A conference would help with scheduling, Bradley said. About 30 percent of the campus student body are student athletes, which as a group, maintain a higher grade point average, Bradley said.
“I am in my 22nd year here, so I have been waiting for this for a long time,” Bradley said of the proposed facility adding that the facility will also be a boost for the general student population of The Woods.
The building site is planned for the west edge of campus, behind the Mary and Andy Rooney Library, adjacent to the Mary O. Goodwin Guest House. The new sports and recreation center will be 36,000-square feet, with a National Collegiate Athletic Association regulation-sized basketball court seating about 1,000 spectators; a practice gym for auxiliary revenue and intramural sports; 2,000 square foot lobby, with flexible space for functions and activities; locker rooms, a training room and storage space; and athletic program offices.
Rain fell on a large white tent set up over part of the future site outlined in a blue spray-painted line.
“I told God a while ago, why call on me to bless when you are doing it yourself,” Rev. Bernie LaMontagne said of the rain, just before giving a prayer as part of the ground blessing.
The rain did not douse the enthusiasm for the new center.
“We should be thankful to Mother Nature given the drought in the state of Indiana for this day” said Sue Hamilton, co-chair of the college’s board of trustees.
“It is an exciting time for the college. We are preparing and continue to enhance our offerings so that we attract young women who seek strong academics with a variety of extra-currircular activities,” Hamilton said.
Wayne Hamilton, also co-chair of the colleges board of trustees, added, “We should all be very proud of where [the college] is today and be delighted about where we are heading. I ask you to stay engaged by helping us shape the future … Together we will build this building and in so doing, create a strong foundation for the future of The Woods.”
Reporter Howard Greninger can be reached at (812) 231-4204 or firstname.lastname@example.org.