MISHAWAKA--Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, the new Lehman Family Training Center is still scheduled to be completed by December 2020.
“We have just started taking down power to the area so we can cut down trees for the new building,” Physical Plant Director Joe Zappia wrote in an email.
According to the Bethel University website, the project has raised $3.5 million so far. The project needs $400,000 more to fully fund the project.
Danny Wilkerson, Bethel track and field head coach, said the project is something he has been advocating for 14 years.
“Right now, athletics is overwhelmed in our current facilities and the students suffer from it,” Wilkerson said in a phone interview.
One of the main additions to the athletic department that the new facility will bring is an indoor track. The track will stretch 200 meters but will not be a full circle. It will be utilized for track and field practices, but not for competitions. For most of its history, the track and field program has not had an adequate practice area.
The training center will also contain a weight room area with squat racks, lifting platforms, a dumbbell rack and multi-function benches. The remaining fundraising money will be used to purchase the weight-room equipment.
As for the building construction, the Grounds and Maintenance Department is working with several local companies. Design Collaborative of Fort Wayne designed the structure of the building. DJ Construction of Goshen will be building the structure. Hill Excavating of Mishawaka is working on excavating. Dynamic Mechanical of Mishawaka and Gaylor Electric Elkhart are working on heating, cooling, plumbing and electrical.
“I do know the biggest hold-up, if you want to call it a hold-up, is waiting on the prefab steel shell to arrive” Wilkerson said. “It has been ordered and its currently being supposedly built and then we’re waiting for it to be shipped and then erected.”
While waiting for the prefab steel shell to arrive, Wilkerson said the construction team will start laying down the concrete foundation. The prefab steel shell is being used for the beams, ceiling, roof and walls.
When images of what the facility would look like were released online, questions arose over the location of the site. The images suggested the facility would be built over the practice fields on the south side of campus.
But Wilkerson said the facility will not be reducing the size of or replacing any other facility.
“Just to make sure everybody understands that this isn’t affecting any other fields on campus,” Wilkerson said. “Whether it’s the rugby training facility or their practice field…none of that stuff is being affected. It’s tucked right along the fence, going right back to what was once old prairie.”
When the facility is finished, one of the goals is to increase student-athlete enrollment by 200 students over three years. To accomplish this goal, the promise of the new facility is being used as a recruiting tool.
“It’s been pretty encouraging now that we can recruit based on the fact, we’re a Christ-centered program with a winning tradition that will have a state-of-the-art training facility,” Wilkerson said. “It just has a nice ring to it and has already made a huge difference in the caliber of kids that are willing to talk to us [and] winning some of the 50-50’s between other schools who have facilities that we never did.”
Not only will the athletics program benefit from the new facility, but also academic programs. According to a flyer about the new facility, another goal is to expand the Kinesiology Department. The department includes majors such as pre-physical therapy, athletic training and sport management.
Wilkerson gave credit to Zappia and Bethel Chief Financial Officer Jerry White for being the main liaison to the contractors involved. He also extended praise to President Gregg Chenoweth and the cabinet for believing in the project.
“It’s been pretty much all hands-on deck from multiple levels of the cabinet and athletic department,” Wilkerson said. “I would say if there’s anybody directly [who helped], it would be the donors. Without the donors, none of this can happen.”
If anyone is interested in donating towards the new facility, interested parties can fill out this giving form.