Wittenberg announces plans to break ground on facility in 2017

Staying with the story

The Springfield News-Sun has reported on Wittenberg University’s plans to build a new athletics complex for more than a year, including stories looking at tax credits and other funding sources.

Wittenberg University announced Thursday it will break ground on a new Health, Wellness and Athletics Complex in March 2017, though it still needs to raise about $6.5 million.

“We’re getting there, and we’re going to get there,” said Wittenberg Interim President Dick Helton. “Someone asked today in the board meeting what our plan B was if we didn’t have that number, and folks there is no plan B. I don’t think you can think in terms of plan B because I know we’re going to get there.”

Construction will take at least 18 months. The cost will be approximately $40 million. 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.

The fund-raising effort has now reached the public phase, which is one reason Wittenberg hosted a reception Thursday to provide an update on where the facility stands. It hopes for one last push to reach the magic number of $40 million.

Among the features of the 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.

Bates, the founder of the Stanley Steemer carpet cleaning business, got the idea of the facility rolling with his pledge. He said he had talked for years with fellow Wittenberg grad Ken Benne about the need for an indoor facility.

“Now we never had this in mind,” Bates said, “but what happened was as time went on and we looked at facilities around the country, we realized no one in Division III has a facility like this. I thought it would be great if Wittenberg could have the best facility in America.”

Bates put pressure on Wittenberg football coach Joe Fincham, saying, “Mark my words, within five years of this facility being built, we will have a national championship.”

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