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June 15, 2017
Pride swelled under a clear blue sky Thursday on the Northwest Missouri State University campus as University faculty, staff, students and alumni gathered with representatives of the city and local business to break ground for the Carl and Cheryl Hughes Fieldhouse, a 137,250 square-foot, $20 million facility designed to serve a multitude of social, recreational and economic needs for the University and region.
The project represents the single largest public-private partnership in Northwest’s 112‐year history and one of the largest such projects in the region ever. University President Dr. John Jasinski called Thursday’s celebration a “critical juncture in the history of Northwest Missouri State University” as he welcomed the large crowd gathered in the field west of College Park where the facility will be built.
After Jasinski moderated two panel discussions highlighting the various turning points and goals for the project, the president invited 28 individuals representing Northwest, its Foundation Board of Directors, the city of Maryville and local businesses to “turn some dirt.” Sporting helmets with Bearcat paws and taking hold of shovels with paws on the blades, they did just that.
Members of the Founding 50, a group of lead donors who have committed gifts of $50,000 or greater to the project, also took a turn shoveling dirt.
During a panel discussion before the groundbreaking, Northwest Vice President of Student Affairs Dr. Matt Baker, Director of Athletics Mel Tjeerdsma, Director of Athletics Bands Dr. Katy Strickland and outgoing Student Senate President offered their thoughts about the impacts the Hughes Fieldhouse will have on the student experience across athletics, academics and other activities at Northwest.
Baker recalled starting conversations about the project with student leaders about five years ago and a charge to be bold in their vision for the facility. He noted the impacts the facility is likely to have on enhancing student engagement and creating more opportunities for intramurals and recreation. Additionally, the facility will create a new space for large University events such as commencement ceremonies or Career Day.
“Our students are excited when there’s something new, when there’s something happening, when there’s something being built,” Baker said. “There’s a sense of growth and future. We know for the next three to five years that feeling of new and excitement will really carry us forward in our recruitment, our retention and our graduation of students.”
Baker said he’s most excited about the new opportunities to connect students.
“We’re already working with our campus recreation team on expanding club sports, and students have asked for that,” Baker said. “I think about students having something that’s open during the evenings and the weekends to engage in things that really connect them to the Northwest experience.”
While Northwest is the winner of 13 national championships since December – 11 by academic teams and two NCAA Division II titles by Bearcat athletics teams – Tjeerdsma emphasized that all Northwest athletics teams will benefit from the facility, which will feature an indoor flooring system, 90-yard practice turf and 300-meter indoor competition track.
“This has a huge impact on every sport and probably more of an impact on some sports that you don’t realize,” Tjeerdsma said.
He described the hectic scene during winter months in Bearcat Arena when the men’s and women’s track teams, numbering about 100 student-athletes, are using the track surrounding the basketball floor as the basketball teams practice. Then, the tennis teams are often waiting in the wings to use the court after a basketball practice finishes. “I’m amazed that we get done what we get done,” Tjeerdsma said.
For the Bearcat baseball and softball teams, whose seasons regularly begin in early February, the indoor facility will provide them with a space to practice and simulate game situations while the winter weather prevails outdoors. Women’s golf and the tennis teams, which play during the fall and spring months, also will benefit.
“We have 14 schools in our conference, we are the furthest north, and in January and February the weather’s a lot different here than it is in Edmond, Oklahoma,” Tjeerdsma said. “This is going to give those sports an opportunity to be inside.”
Similar to athletics teams, the Bearcat Marching Band – now 170 members strong – will use the center when cold weather sets in. The Hughes Fieldhouse and its turf field will provide a spacious indoor facility where the band can practice marching drills – something it cannot do inside Northwest’s fine and performing arts facilities.
“It’s going to impact the BMB in a lot of ways,” Strickland said. “Our football season goes long, and we like it that way, but that means it gets cold. That means the trombone slides freeze, the trumpet valves freeze. This facility provides us an opportunity to get out of the cold and get out of the heavy rain.”
University wide, Strickland noted, Northwest believes the facility will enhance its recruiting and retention efforts.
“The majority of students in the BMB are not music majors,” Strickland said. “We don’t have kids who major in baseball. They don’t major in soccer. Those kids are coming in and filling agriculture classrooms, education classrooms, nanoscale physics classrooms, and that’s a tremendous opportunity for us.”
Sears said building the state-of-the-art facility during a time when state resources are limited upholds a promise of innovation and continued growth at the University. She said the facility offers endless possibilities as a hub for social activities.
“The Hughes center really is a testament to our commitment to continue to grow, even in times when we’re having to cut other budgets,” Sears said. “It symbolizes the fact that we want to be on the map and get students here.”
A second panel discussed their vision for the facility and its funding support. Those panelists were Dr. Pat Harr, the chair of Northwest’s Board of Regents and a volunteer physician with Northwest athletics; Greg McDanel, Maryville’s city manager; Arne Johnson, president of the Northwest Foundation Board of Directors; and Carl Hughes, a Foundation Board member whose family's major gift helped put the construction of the facility into motion. All are alumni of the University.
Donors have committed $13 million to the project so far through donations and pledges secured by the Northwest Foundation while multiple sources, including the University and students, also are contributing to the project. A remaining $600,000 gap must be raised to complete the facility prior to the summer 2018 dedication.
Leading support for the project is provided by the Founding 50, with the Carl and Cheryl Hughes family, the Mel and Valorie Booth family, the city of Maryville and Nodaway Valley Bank working as “team captains” of the group.
Harr referred to the Hughes Fieldhouse as Northwest’s “own ‘Field of Dreams’ because our kids will come here with dreams, and this facility will enable them to accomplish those dreams.”
“I can tell you from the onset of this project that the Board (of Regents) has visioned what this would bring to the University,” Harr said. “There’s buy-in from the Founding 50, the Booth family, the Hughes family, and I think we’ve just touched the tip of the iceberg. There are a lot of Bearcats who are kind of in the wood cracks around the country, and once you break ground on a project like this, the funding will come forth.”
He added, “What excites me the most is we’ve gone from thinking to planning to doing.”
McDanel praised the partnership of Northwest and the city of Maryville and the alignment of their strategic plans. In the wake of voters approving a transient guest tax last November, the city formed a tourism committee charged with developing ways to use revenues from the tax and maximize the Hughes Fieldhouse for community events such as trade shows, conferences, school functions and recreational activities.
“The University did a fantastic job with their campus master plan in identifying the Hughes center as a top priority, and it easily aligns with city of Maryville’s comprehensive plan, which is to enhance tourism and economic development in the community,” McDanel said. “The partnership between the city and the University with the transient guest tax was a natural fit. (The city council) never wavered or hesitated during the course of this process and supporting this project.”
Johnson called it “thrilling” to see the broad support the project has garnered.
“It’s really something that tugs at your heart when you think about it,” Johnson said. “There’s a huge debt of gratitude that we owe everybody who stepped up on this.”
Hughes reiterated his family’s decision to support the project through their Hughes Family Foundation. He noted the support of the Booths, who provided a seven-figure gift toward the project, as well as the support of the city of Maryville, Northwest students and the momentum of the Founding 50 as ignition points that led to Thursday’s groundbreaking.
“I think most of us deep in our hearts, want to make a difference, want to have an impact, and I just think that’s a motivation,” Hughes said. “It certainly is for me and Cheryl, and we created a family foundation a decade ago to do just that. We’ve always been looking for a target that could be a big one. We’ve done small things, but this was an easy thing to follow.”
He commended Founding 50 members and their families for supporting the project.
“You see the local people and the businesses and the people across the country, and I just know there’s people in there that, whatever they put in, it was a pretty deep dig for them,” Hughes said. “That’s motivating to us, and so it is about generosity, there’s no question about it. I think it’s about impact, and we hope that everyone who participates in this feels like they’ve had an impact in making this happen.”
Hughes, a 1976 Northwest graduate, added, “It’s all about the kids. You want to see the kids be active and try hard and try to excel and try to push themselves and grow and be ready to go out in the world and be productive.”
Rep. Allen Andrews, who represents District 1 in the Missouri General Assembly and is a Northwest alumnus, also was on hand, voicing his support and excitement for the ways the Hughes Fieldhouse will benefit the region and state. A third-party economic impact study reported the center could provide an additional economic development impact of $23.8 million, the equivalent of creating 946 new jobs, for the region. That comes as an addition to the $617.5 million Northwest generates in added regional income.
“It’s a tremendous opportunity,” Andrews said. “It’s something that people literally long for in other districts and other communities.”
Andrews said he often looks at economic impacts when considering projects for the region and state, but a conversation on Thursday with a Northwest student-athlete gave him a different perspective of the project.
“This is going to be a tool that will allow them to go beyond their expectations or beyond their normal abilities and help them achieve more,” Andrews said. “So there’s a whole human impact here, not just economically, but what this is going to instill in our future generations.”
The University set four goals for the center: promoting health, wellness and engaged programming for Northwest’s students, faculty and staff as well as the broader community; providing a competitive advantage relative to Northwest’s intercollegiate athletics teams and overall programming; enhancing Northwest’s ability to recruit, retain and engage students; and providing enhanced community partnership opportunities and economic development outcomes.
In addition to its recreational features, the facility will be Leadership in Energy and Environment Design (LEED) certified and designed and constructed according to modern sustainability standards. It is expected to include recreation and exhibition space, spectator seating and tiered meeting rooms.
Northwest's Board of Regents, last month, authorized the awarding of a construction contract to E.L. Crawford Construction Inc. A grand opening of the Hughes Fieldhouse is targeted during summer 2018.
To learn more about the Hughes Fieldhouse, visit www.nwmissouri.edu/HughesFieldhouse/.
Mark Hornickel, Communication Manager
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Northwest Missouri State University
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