Two years ago, when plans were announced for a new indoor athletics complex at Wittenberg University, the man responsible for getting the project going talked about his big dreams for the football program.
“Mark my words, within five years of this facility being built, we will have a national championship,” said Wes Bates in October 2016.
On Saturday, Bates, the chairman, CEO and founder of the Stanley Steemer carpet cleaning business, repeated that goal as the facility, which officially will be called the Steemer Center, rose behind him during a halftime interview at Edwards-Maurer Field as the Wittenberg Tigers played Wabash.
» LOOKING BACK: Wittenberg breaks ground on project
Wittenberg President Michael Frandsen was sitting next to Bates when he mentioned the national championship.
“We’re going to work toward that,” Frandsen said. “We’re going to continue to do what we do across the entire athletic program, and that’s build champions for a lifetime. We’re proud that our football, volleyball, men’s golf (programs) are all ranked in the top 10 now nationally. Men’s basketball has a preseason top-10 ranking. We’re proud of those accomplishments, but we’re just as proud and maybe more so of the way these young people are developing into great future citizens, future leaders, experts in their fields and great athletes and sportsmen, too.”
Whether Wittenberg wins a national championship or not, it will soon have one of the best facilities at the Division III level. The Steemer will open next fall.
“We’ve been working on this for a long time,” said Bates, who donated approximately $10 million to the $40 million facility. “I don’t think, without our new president being behind it, we would have got here. It seems like it’s taken us forever to get this thing where it is. It’s now on its way. It’s going to be absolutely great for Wittenberg and great for all of us alums.”
» FOOTBALL COVERAGE: Wabash ends Wittenberg’s winning streak
Wittenberg and Bates also see the Steemer as a facility that will benefit more than just the athletic department and the university but all of Springfield.
“One of the things Wes has talked about is the building of community that happens around athletics,” Frandsen said, “but also around fitness and wellness and healthy activity that our students are engaged in, whether they’re athletes or not athletes. It’s going to be a great place to bring people together. We’re excited we’re going to start moving into the old fieldhouse early in 2019, and we’re looking forward to next fall having the whole project done. At homecoming next year, we’re looking looking forward to a big celebration and completion of the project.”
In the interview Saturday, Bates also explained his decision behind naming the facility the Steemer.
“We could have called it the Stanley Steemer, but that would be too commercial,” Bates said. “Just calling it the Steemer is something people will remember. It’s easy.”