MISHAWAKA--The highly anticipated Lehman Family Training Center will need an extra month before it officially opens its doors. Originally scheduled to open to the public in December, the new facility is now on track to open January 2021.
The City of Mishawaka could not hold in-person meetings during the Indiana statewide quarantine. Since they could not hold in-person meetings, the City Council did not have the opportunity to look at and approve the architectural drawings of the new facility.
Since the training facility is being built within the city limits, the Mishawaka City Council is required to approve Bethel University’s building plans.
“Until that happened, we couldn’t get approval to start,” Physical Plant Director Joe Zappia said. “We had the state-approved drawings, but the city hadn’t approved the mechanicals.”
Despite the small setback, Zappia and Danny Wilkerson, Bethel’s track and field head coach, are both happy with the progress so far.
From the outside, students and faculty can see a shell structure of a building, guarded by a tall, gray fence. Currently, the inside of the structure features a few bare walls with wires running through them and some open studs.
“Right now, the guys are starting to rough in the electrical, the plumbing and the heating,” Zappia said. “They’re actually building walls right now.”
Once the trade companies such as Dynamic Mechanical and Gaylor Electric Elkhart finish roughing in, the area will be inspected. After inspections are cleared, the dry wall will be put up and painted. As the painting finishes, the track and field surface and carpets will be put down in their respective places.
As for the equipment going into the facility, Wilkerson said he is trying to raise money for an additional Boost anti-gravity treadmill. He is also in the process of securing the cardio and weight room equipment.
“It is still difficult to say what [equipment] we’re missing, but I feel pretty comfortable to say the facility will open up as turnkey as possible and we’re pretty excited about that,” Wilkerson said.
In addition to securing equipment, Wilkerson is communicating with Zappia and on-site workers about equipment placement in the facility. For example, the ground and the box for the pole vaults pits need to be positioned in a precise way.
Once the building is completed, the track and field teams and other sports will immediately move their practices out of Goodman Gym.
“As soon as we’re able to get in there and it’s cleared and everybody signs off on it, our goal is to be out of these training facilities over here in the Wiekamp Center,” Wilkerson said. “And open it up to everyone else as soon as possible.”
The 200-meter indoor track in the new facility will be the track and field teams’ first exclusive practice area in some time. For most of the program’s history, the teams used neighboring high school track facilities and the two gyms in the Wiekamp Center for practice.
In the athletic department’s history, team sports like track and field accommodated for the lack of practice space by sharing the small facility. The expansion of the Lehman Family Training Facility will alleviate the problem for many Bethel teams.
While the facility’s funding is approved, interested parties can still donate towards the equipment needed and the entire project.