After twelve years of planning, a $13.5 million contribution by Ithaca College and six years of donations, the new Athletics and Events Center groundbreaking ceremony took place at 5 p.m. Tuesday.
The announcement of the ceremony came after Charles Wheeler, ’56, and his wife donated an undisclosed amount before the June 15 deadline intended to jump-start the fundraising campaign. The deadline was moved up, according to President Rochon, because of a favorable bid on less expensive construction.
“We accelerated the fundraising effort to have all money raised in gifts or pledges by June 15,” President Rochon said. “The Ithaca College community responded in this final sprint to the finish and made it possible for us to start this project now.”
Plans for a new athletics center began in 1997. The campus’ current facilities in the Hill Center date back to the 1960s and the fields do not meet the standard Division III turf field requirements for field hockey and lacrosse, according to Bill Ware, head coach of the women’s cross country team.
“When I took the teaching, coaching job at Ithaca College in 1965 the athletic director Carp Wood showed me the blueprints for a field house to be built on the new campus,” Ware said. “It has been 44 years since then, so a new facility is long overdue.”
Rochon said he believes this center will not only benefit the athletic teams but will also become a hub for campus activity.
“It will be very significant as the venue for our largest campus events, including some of our most prominent annual speakers series as well as such events as Commencement,” Rochon said. “ In addition, the inter-collegiate sports contests and recreational opportunities of the A&E Center will be substantial.”
The first phase of construction has begun in the southeast quadrant of the campus between Boothroyd Hall and the Garden Apartments and will take place over the next 20 months, according to Dave Maley, associate director of campus communication.
The 130,000-square-foot field out, outdoor stadium, 35,000-square-foot aquatics pavilion and outdoor tennis facility with six tennis courts will be the first to be built, Maley said.
If the college can raise additional funds, it may expand the A&E center to include basketball and volleyball, gymnastics, rowing, wrestling and strength and conditioning facilities, according to Maley. The completion of these centers is expected to take several years, if the college is able to raise additional funds.
The women’s cross-country team has raised 30.6 percent of the funds toward the goal, according to a release last Monday by Mike Serventi, chair of the Athletics and Events Center National Committee.
“They challenged one another to see who could raise the most funds from the alumni from the various sports teams,” Maley said. “One of the ways that the college tried to inspire donations and contributions to the center was by making it a sport in itself to challenge athletes just like they challenged themselves on the playing fields and courts.”
Many alumni have also put effort into fundraising for the new center. The Delta Kappas, Ithaca’s Greek alumni, have raised more than $45,000 and the Pi Lams have set up a challenge of their own.
“Though the college does not currently have any social fraternities, there have been in the past and a challenge was also made to those alumni from the Greek system to challenge one another to contribute to the A&E center,” Maley said.
Sophomore rower Molly Kilroy said the future rowing center is an incredible addition to an already strong crew team.
“The new center gives us a huge advantage over other teams,” Kilroy said. “Instead of using Cornell’s tanks we can use our own. It’s a great addition.”
Rochon said a new Athletics and Events center has become a necessity, and the success can be attributed to the hard work and efforts in fundraising by all who contributed.
“This has been a twenty-year dream for Ithaca College, and the need for the A&E Center has become more pressing as time goes on,” Rochon said. “It is the result of the most ambitious fundraising effort for a single project in College history, and sets a new standard for our fundraising goals in the future.”