Wittenberg University leaders broke ground Friday on a $40 million indoor athletic facility that they hope will help with student recruitment and facilitate more connections with the Springfield community.
Among the features of the new 125,000 square-feet complex will be an indoor 100-yard 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.
“It will impact this community because of the opportunities that will avail themselves to different programming,” Interim President Dick Helton said.
Wittenberg is a major local employer with a total of more than 350 employees and an estimated $70 million economic impact on the Springfield community. But it has also made millions in cuts and is now on its third full-time president in about a decade.
The new complex, along with improvements to the 1929 Field House and the 1982 Health, Physical Education and Recreation Center, should help the university grow and retain students, he said.
“We have research available from other institutions of our likeness and those institutions saw program growth, enrollment growth, retention growth,” Helton said. “It’s going to impact the future of this institution from the enrollment side. We are very excited about the growth potential that comes with this. This is all about growth and commitment to the future.”
The complex will serve the athletic programs, but he said it will also open up opportunities for academic success as well.
Wittenberg administrators want to reach 2,000 students as soon as possible. The university has seen enrollment growth over the past couple years and right now has more than 1,800 students.
“Honestly it’s the best thing that’s happened at Wittenberg for a while,” senior Macy Hubbard said.
“Having an indoor field house will be awesome,” she said. “It’ll be good for the community, too. We’ll be able to bring in schools and high schools and host events.”
Hubbard, who is a student athlete, said she also believes the new building will help athletic recruiting and tempt talented players from around the country to come play for Wittenberg.
The construction will take at least 18 months. Wes and Ann Bates, members of the class of 1970, donated $10 million to match another $10 million gift from alumni and friends of the university. Wittenberg expects to receive approximately another $13 million in tax credits.
Helton said all students will be positively affected by the complex.
“When you think about what this facility will do,” he said. “It will impact every student on campus. Every student that’s here today and those students that will come tomorrow.”
The tax credits the university has received from the project includes a $3.9 million in federal historic tax incentives from the Federal Historic Preservation Tax Incentives program administered by the National Park Service, and a $5 million in Ohio Historic Preservation Tax Credits from the Ohio Development Services Agency.