Two gifts of a million dollars each jump start proposed athletic training facility for FHSU

Two million-dollar gifts toward the creation of an indoor athletic training facility have been given to Fort Hays State University through the generosity of Don and Chris Bickle and Bob and Pat Schmidt. The announcement was made at the Robbins Center this morning. The Bickles and Schmidts each donated $1 million and will be recognized in the naming of the FHSU athletic training facility.

The pair of gifts totals about half of what will be needed to complete the project. "The need for a lead gift like this is vital. It creates the energy that is needed to finalize the initiative and creates the excitement for others to follow," said Tim Chapman, president and CEO of the FHSU Foundation.

The proposed training site is located at the southeast corner of the FHSU campus near Lewis Field Stadium. This 71,000-square-foot facility will be equipped with weights, cardio equipment, a four-lane synthetic track and an artificial covered surface that will extend 70 yards, although the final version of the project will depend heavily on future contributions.

Beyond naming of the facility itself, there are other naming opportunities involved, including the field, the track, the lifting and cardio facility, and a wall of honor that will be established for individual donors and teams.

"We would like to see former athletic teams become involved in the wall of honor," Chapman said.   

"There’s no question it's going to help us bring in qualified athletes, produce winning teams and give us a chance to be at the top of the conference," said Bickle. "When we do that, it will have a positive effect on the economy of western Kansas."

The need for this facility was brought to the table by Curtis Hammeke, FHSU athletic director, in relation to Gross Memorial Coliseum and Cunningham Hall being overused for all sports. Hammeke explored different ways that athletics could defer some of the demand on those facilities. Hammeke and Chapman approached the FHSU coaches and the university's premier athletic booster club, the Difference Makers.   

"We let them know the benefits of having that type of facility and what the ultimate outcome would be of having that facility here, not only for football, but also for track, baseball, softball -- any outdoor sport where conditions in western Kansas make it tough to be outside at times," said Chapman.

Hammeke expects the training facility to broaden training and recruiting possibilities for the nearly 400 student-athletes who attend FHSU.

Bob Schmidt expressed his gratitude for the opportunities afforded him through his education at the university and said he saw this as another chance to provide a benefit to FHSU. "This is a start, but it's going to take an awful lot of other sizeable contributions," he said.

Chapman said he expects the announcement of these gifts to raise awareness and generate future contributions to the project and the success of FHSU athletics. "Athletics is a window to the FHSU campus. The need to enhance and incorporate state-of-the-art facilities is vital to the success of current programs and to recruiting the most talented athletes in the region," said Chapman.

"Once again Don and Chris Bickle and Bob and Pat Schmidt have stepped up to help Fort Hays State University achieve a level of quality that would not be possible without their help," said FHSU President Edward H. Hammond. "We believe very strongly in forging partnerships with businesses, organizations and individuals. It is especially gratifying to make this announcement celebrating a partnership with individuals who have played such a dynamic role in the history of this institution."

Hammeke also expressed deep appreciation. "We are extremely grateful for the lead gifts from Don and Chris Bickle and Bob and Pat Schmidt," he said. "Their generosity will initiate great possibilities to bring this project to fruition."

For more information about making a contribution to the athletic training facility or about naming opportunities, visit the FHSU Foundation online -- -- send an e-mail to or call (785) 628-5620.

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