In Glazer Arena on Saturday night, there was live music, food and drinks, and well-dressed alumni, faculty, staff and current students present in Ithaca College’s newest building. The lavish ceremony marked the official dedication of the Athletics and Events Center as part of Fall Splash Alumni Weekend.
More than 900 people attended the formal dinner as part of the dedication, plus about 100 student athletes, student performers and student volunteers assisted with the dedication program, according to Dave Maley, associate director of Media Relations.
More than 2,800 donors contributed to the $65.5-million, decade-long project. Planning and construction for the facility began in 2001, and building efforts, which recently concluded, initiated in June 2009.
The ceremony was preceded by a martial arts demonstration and Tai Chi by a visiting group of China’s Chengdu Sport University. Ithaca College School of Health Sciences and Human Performance has had a joint partnership with them since 2007.
A performance by pop/rock band Orleans concluded the evening. The dedication, emceed by Eric Jordan Young ’93, also included speeches from President Tom Rochon, former president Peggy Williams, Mike Serventi ’72, chair of the A&E Center National Committee; Bill Schwab ’68, chair of the board of trustees, and Caroleen Feeney ’86, trustee and associate of Atlantic Philanthropies, a major donor to the project.
After the speeches in celebration of the new building, CCH Pounder ’75 — an actress who starred in “Avatar,” has appeared in television shows such as “E.R.” and “Law and Order: Special Victims Unit,” and delivered the college’s 2010 commencement address — was awarded an honorary doctorate of fine arts degree.
Rochon said he was proud to see the construction conclude during his presidency and lauded the efforts of all involved.
“We are here to celebrate one of the most daring accomplishments our campus has ever seen,” he said. “The creation of an athletic and events complex that stands almost 300,000 square feet will do nothing less than restructure the physical face of our institution and the caliber of the educational experiences that our students will find here.”
Rochon said the A&E Center is not just a venue for student athletes, as the college plans to use the space to host a variety of musical, educational and cultural events. With a room capacity of 6,700 people, the field house will also be the future home for major events such as commencement, concerts, conferences and speakers.
Shelly Semmler, vice president for institutional advancement, organized fundraising for events such as the construction of the A&E building. She said the process of coming up with the funds for construction was a difficult task.
Semmler said she reached out to alumni, corporations and foundations to raise money for the building. She said she eventually went back to a number of people to make a second or third contribution. The college was finally able to reach their fundraising goal of $52.5-million. On the day the college decided to build, with the help of a $25-million donation from Atlantic Philanthropies, a private foundation that generally offers grants to disadvantaged people across the world.
All of the money for the building came from donors and private corporations, and the college contributed an estimated $13 million for site preparation.
The A&E Center contains a field house, aquatics pavilion, a lighted outdoor stadium with a turf field and outdoor tennis courts. The building also includes athletic and strength training facilities, a hall of fame display, a press box, athletic offices, team meeting rooms and locker rooms.
The outdoor stadium was named after Martin Higgins, who died unexpectedly of an undetected heart ailment in 1979 while he was a student at the college. His former rugby teammates and classmates raised money in his honor to recognize his influence on their lives. The Higgins Stadium will be the new home field for the college’s lacrosse, field hockey, soccer and rugby teams.
Mike Serventi ’72, chair of the Athletics and Events Advisory Committee and head of fundraising for the center, said he was eager to be involved in the construction because he thought that it is exactly what the college needed.
“We need to have the resources available to state very clearly that Ithaca College is the place to go for a truly unique and fulfilling campus experience,” he said. “This facility does that.”