Wittenberg University will introduce its new indoor practice facility to alumni, students, faculty, staff and the Springfield community on homecoming weekend.
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The official opening celebration for the Steemer will take place from 6:30-8:30 p.m. Oct 25, and there will be three one-hour tours the next morning (at 9, 9:30 and 10 a.m.) for anyone who missed Friday’s event.
The Wittenberg football team plays Denison at 1 p.m. Oct. 26. The homecoming game, which is free for spectators like every other Wittenberg athletic contest, comes in the seventh game of the season. That’s later than usual. Wittenberg pushed homecoming back so it could coincide with the completion of the Health, Wellness & Athletics Restoration Expansion Initiative.
“The celebration is going to be really special,” Wittenberg Athletics Director Gary Williams said Wednesday.
The Steemer already has made an impact in recruiting. Coaches have been showing it off all year to prospective student-athletes.
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“We’ve had more verbal commits at this time this year than we’ve had ever had,” Williams said.
The $40 million indoor facility fills the area where the football team used to practice behind the HPER Center and Edwards-Maurer Field. Talk of the new facility began in 2013. Wittenberg announced official plans in October 2016 and broke ground on the facility in March 2017.
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Wittenberg tore down the old Edwards-Maurer press box in January 2018 as construction continued. Workers have made fast progress in the past six months on the 125,000 square-foot complex, which includes a six-lane, 300-meter indoor track and a 100-yard turf field among other improvements. Williams described the recent pace of work as “lightning fast.”
“It’s amazing — the transformation from the end of the school year through the summer,” he said. “It has completely transformed into a living, breathing facility. I was just walking through it today. You could start running on the turf. The track is going down this week.”
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The new press box, which overlooks the football field, is already done. Williams said people touring the facility will be impressed by the 7,000 square-foot weight room. He expects fall sports teams to be able to use the facility no later than the first week of November.
Seeing the Steemer near completion is hard to put into words for Williams. It has been a big part of his job for a large chunk of his tenure. Wittenberg hired him in April 2014.
“This has been a labor of love for so long,” Williams said. “Just seeing people’s reactions, seeing their excitement, watching recruits come through … we were with the family of a basketball recruit today, and they were seeing it, and it was just like, ‘Holy cow.’ It’s a stunning facility. The more people are seeing it, the more people are looking at it in a different way.”