- By David Jablonski Staff Writer
Wittenberg University took the next step in construction of a $40 million indoor athletic facility on Tuesday, demolishing the press box that has long stood over Edwards-Maurer Field.
The press box was pulled down away from the football field. It took crews three attempts to get it down but fell with a loud boom once it tumbled.
“For whatever it’s worth, it’s maybe not aesthetically pleasing, but it’s kind of a tradition at Witt,” said football coach Joe Fincham last fall. “I’ll be sad to see it go.”
The athletic facility improvements include: a 125,000 square-feet complex with a 100-yard indoor artificial turf surface; a six-lane, 300-meter indoor track; a 7,000-square-foot weight room; a sport performance, strength training and wellness center; technology-enabled classroom space; updated locker rooms; and modern court surfaces for tennis, volleyball and basketball.
The double-tiered press box was named after local sports editors Dan Hoyt, of the Springfield Sun, and Bob Sullivan, of the Springfield News, in 1987.
When the Tigers won national championships in the 1960s and 1970s, the stands rose to the bottom of the press box. In later years, stairs connected the press box to the stands. A temporary structure replaced those stairs last season as preparation for the demolition continued.
Wittenberg Athletic Director Gary Williams expects a new press box will be ready to go when the 2018 football season begins. He said work on the 1929 Field House, the old gym next to the HPER Center, should also be complete by then. However, the entire facility won’t be completed until 2019.
The construction has disrupted routines for athletes and coaches. Fewer locker rooms are available, forcing some athletes to use racquetball courts. Coaches have moved out of their normal offices at the HPER Center.
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Williams praised everyone for adapting. The volleyball team reached the national championship game. The football and women’s soccer teams won North Coast Athletic Conference championships.The men’s basketball team is 13-0 and ranked 10th in the nation.
“There’s a lot of things that have been disrupted,” Williams said. “We realize that. But at the same token, it’s amazing how hard the kids are working. You can’t say enough about their resilience and grit.”
Williams expects the steel that will be used for the main structure to arrive sometime in the early spring. He called the press box demolition a positive sign in construction.
“It’s one of the last visible changes that people will see and it’ll be noticeable,” Williams said. “It’s sentimental for people. There’s a lot of people who have experienced this place for many years. It’s kind of a special moment. It’s the beginning of the next generation for the facility, but it’s symbolic of many years of history and tradition.”