Perhaps the mascot of Fort Hays State University should be changed from a tiger to a crane.
No, not crane as in a bird. Crane as in a machine.
A groundbreaking ceremony today between Lewis Field Stadium and Big Creek on the FHSU campus officially launched construction of a nearly $4.2 million indoor athletic training facility. The training facility is the latest in a series of four major construction projects that total an investment of about $30 million by the university. Cranes and other heavy construction machinery have become a common sight on the FHSU campus.
"We announced plans for this project two years ago, thanks to major gifts from the families of Bob and Pat Schmidt and Don and Chris Bickle," Dr. Edward H. Hammond, FHSU president, said during today's ceremony. The Schmidts and Bickles each donated $1 million toward construction of what will be called the Schmidt/Bickle Indoor Training Facility. "Those two gifts, combined with the generosity of many other donors, made today possible," he said.
The training facility will be located at the southeast corner of the FHSU campus near the football stadium. The 50,400-square-foot facility will be equipped with weights, cardio equipment, a four-lane synthetic track, an artificial-cover surface that will extend 65 yards, and meeting and entertainment rooms.
"The facility we are announcing today will be nicer than what we had envisioned two years ago," the president said. "We have hired Compton Construction Corp. of Wichita as the general contractor. Compton had the low bid of $3,628,000, which was well below the original estimate of $4 million. Therefore, we were able to accept two alternates to the base bid, which will allow us to add stone veneer to the north and east sides of the building and add a folding partition inside that will allow meeting space to be divided into separate rooms. Even with those added costs, the total of $3,753,600 comes in comfortably below what we thought we would have to spend."
Equipment, especially for weight training, and furnishings bring the estimated total cost of the new facility to nearly $4.2 million.
Bob Schmidt expressed his gratitude for the opportunities afforded to him and his wife, Pat, through their education at the university. "Athletics are important to what the university is all about," Schmidt said. "President Hammond and Athletic Director Curtis Hammeke provided the vision, and it wouldn't have happened without Curtis's positive leadership."
"I'm excited," Bickle said, adding that he had recently heard Baseball Coach Steve Johnson remark that the new facility would be one of the greatest enhancements he could use to bring outstanding players to western Kansas." This will be a tremendous benefit not just to football and baseball, but to track and all the other outdoor sports at FHSU," Bickle said, "and it will be good for the economy of western Kansas."
Hammeke raised the need for the indoor training facility because Gross Memorial Coliseum and Cunningham Hall were being overused. "We explored different ways that athletics could defer some of the demand on those facilities," Hammeke said, "so Tim and I approached the coaches and the Difference Makers, the premier athletic booster club at FHSU." Tim Chapman is president and CEO of the FHSU Foundation.
"Tim and I let them know the benefits of having that type of facility and what the ultimate outcome would be of having the facility here, not only for football, but also for track, baseball, softball, soccer -- any outdoor sport where conditions in western Kansas make it tough to be outside at times," Hammeke explained.
He expects the training facility to broaden training and recruiting possibilities for the more than 400 student athletes at FHSU.
"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," President Hammond agreed.
"Once again the Bickle and Schmidt families, along with other donors, have stepped up to help Fort Hays State University achieve a level of quality that would not be possible without their help," the president continued. "We believe very strongly in forging partnerships with businesses, organizations and individuals."
The indoor training facility and three other capital projects represent a total university investment of about $30 million. The president said the estimated economic impact of about $45 million would provide a big boost to the local economy.
In addition to the training facility, FHSU recently completed an extension of Dwight Drive from the Wooster Place housing complex to Gustad Drive, is nearing completion of the first phase of the Tiger Place residential facility on the site of the former Agnew Hall, with the second phase to begin soon, and will also soon begin construction of a new academic building, called the Center for Networked Learning, which will house the Virtual College and some other departments and offices.