News From Terre Haute, Indiana

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April 21, 2014

VIDEO: Indiana State breaks ground for $4.3M riverside track and field facility

TERRE HAUTE — Indiana State University officials, community leaders and donors broke ground Monday on a new, $4.3 million track and field facility on the Wabash riverfront, along North First Street.

“Today, a new era begins,” said John McNichols, head coach of ISU’s men’s track and cross country teams and coordinator of both the men’s and women’s programs.

The facility, at 400 N. First St., is ISU’s first new athletic facility since 1989. It is also the first major project in Terre Haute’s Riverscape development area.

“It’s an amazing step forward,” said ISU athletic director Ron Prettyman. Not only does it benefit the university and the athletics program, but it also benefits Riverscape, he said.

The new facility “will increase our opportunity to recruit top-level student athletes to come to Indiana State University and be part of a very successful track and field program with a nationwide reputation,” Prettyman said.

A nine-lane track will replace the current one at Marks Field, between Third and Fourth streets. Locating the facility west of Third Street is part of ISU’s 2009 Master Plan, which aims to move several athletic facilities to the riverfront.

The track will have a grassy infield, and there will be a separate area for throwing events located north of the track and east of the vacant ICON building. The complex, part of Phase 1, also will involve storage, restrooms and an entry area, Prettyman said.

A future Phase 2 would include grandstands and a pressbox, but funds must first be raised. “One step at a time,” Prettyman said.

The $4.3 million project is being funded through private donor support, interest income and other sources. State funding can’t be used for athletic facilities.

Max and Jacqueline Gibson and their family have donated about $1 million toward the project, officials say, and ISU President Dan Bradley will recommend to ISU Trustees next month that the facility be named “Gibson Track and Field.”

The Gibsons also were involved with development of the Lavern Gibson Championship Cross Country Course in eastern Vigo County.

After Monday’s program, Max Gibson said he looks forward to returning once the new project is completed. “I’m excited to be here in a year to see what it looks like,” he said.

McNichols, who is in his 31st season of coaching at ISU, thanked the Gibsons and said he hopes the new track and field complex will have the same economic impact on the community as the Lavern Gibson Cross Country course has had.

In comments after the groundbreaking, McNichols said the new facility is important for ISU’s track and field program.

“It’s going to be great for our athletes to be able to train on this. We’ve just about worn Marks Field out. It’s been a great facility for a number of years, almost 50 years … but it’s landlocked, and it’s time to move on,” McNichols said. “I feel this facility will help us in recruiting and also in preparation and training of our athletes.”

Marks Field hasn’t been used for ISU track meets for two years. ISU distance runner and Terre Haute North graduate John Mascari said he is looking forward to competing at home with the new track. “It’s going to be an exciting time,” he said.

Christy Barrett Sherman, a 1991 Indiana State graduate and four-time NCAA track and field All-American, said she is proud to watch the dream of a new facility become reality.

“Future Sycamores will now be rewarded with an outstanding complex to train at and to continue the tradition of Sycamore track and field standouts and championships,” she said.

Bradley noted that one of ISU’s strategic goals is to partner with the community in revitalizing the downtown area, including its riverfront. “Indiana State is proud to serve as a catalyst in helping transform the banks of the Wabash River from an abandoned industrial site into a destination for family-friendly activities,” he said during the ceremony.

ISU hopes the new track and field complex will serve as the site for competitive meets at the local, regional and even national levels. “If we are successful in replicating a fraction of what has been accomplished with the LaVern Gibson [cross country course], it could have a major economic impact on our community,” Bradley said.

ISU, in partnership with Riverscape, envisions a sports and recreational area along the river banks complete with extended trails for walking, jogging and biking. Blending that with activities and educational opportunities at Wabashiki Fish and Wildlife Area “will be quite transformative,” Bradley said.

Moving the track is necessary for several reasons, officials have said in the past. The current track facility is constructed over a former residential area and was an ongoing challenge to maintain, Diann McKee, vice president for business affairs, said last year. Problems included sinking and cracks.

Also, the current facility is landlocked, and ISU is limited in its ability to expand facilities to add spectator seating “or anything of that nature,” she has said.

In addition, parking on the west side of campus is increasingly an issue. The new site would provide more space for parking, she said.

Moving other athletic facilities to nearby property west of Third Street is a long-term goal, but it would be contingent on funding and other factors, McKee has stated.

After Monday’s official ceremony, ISU student athletes jogged into place carrying golden shovels;  a shot from a starter’s pistol served as the signal for university administrators, coaches, donors and others to break ground.

CDI is the general contractor, while Ratio is the project architect.

Sue Loughlin can be reached at 812-231-4235 or sue.loughlin@tribstar.com.

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