The Wittenberg and Springfield community gathered on March 24 for a game-changing event, the ground breaking of Wittenberg’s new Health, Wellness and Athletic facility. In attendance were over 300 members of the community including, Senator Bob Hackett, Springfield Chamber of Commerce President Mike McDorman, members of Wittenberg’s Board of Directors and Wittenberg’s president-elect Mike Frandsen.
All were gathered in a tent in the old parking lot on the south side of the health, physical, recreation and athletic center. A parking lot that is empty for now, but will soon be a part of what Wittenberg administration is calling the greatest facility in Division III athletics.
“This is a great day for Wittenberg, but an even better day for Springfield,” McDorman said.
McDorman stated that Wittenberg and the Springfield community are tied together, and he believes this project to be one of mutual benefit, as the new center will open up new health and wellness opportunities not only to Wittenberg students, but to surrounding high schools and community members.
The new complex is scheduled to be complete within the next 18 months, and will feature a 100-yard artificial turf, a 300-meter indoor track, a new weight room, a new training facility, updated classrooms and locker rooms and space for fitness classes and special events.
The funds for the nearly $40 million project are a result of donations from many Wittenberg alumni and community members, including Wes and Ann Bates from Wittenberg’s class of 1970, who pledged $10 million to the project. In addition to alumni donations, Wittenberg is also receiving an anticipating $8.9 million in historic tax credits for renovations on the original building.
Wes Bates, CEO of Stanley Steamer, has been a part of the renovation project since its inception, and shared a few words about what the process was like, and his inspiration for making such a donation to Wittenberg athletics. Bates realized that Wittenberg’s facilities were mediocre compared to that of other schools in the conference, division and region, and he set out to make Wittenberg competitive on the practice field as much as the competition field.
“We cannot be a generic copy of a small liberal arts school anymore,” Bates said. “We have to be more.”
According to Bates, this facility will make Wittenberg more, and put the facilities on par with that of Division I school Youngstown State. Softball player Lauren Buelow, ‘19, agrees, and stated that the renovations would give her team room to improve.
“We will finally have an environment comparable to the teams we compete against,” Buelow said. “Our rivals have no idea what’s coming for them.”