Minnesota West field house on the wayWORTHINGTON — It took years of planning and persuading the state legislature, but the new field house on the campus of Minnesota West Community and Technical College is finally moving forward.
By: Aaron Hagen, Worthington Daily Globe
WORTHINGTON — It took years of planning and persuading the state legislature, but the new field house on the campus of Minnesota West Community and Technical College is finally moving forward.
“We’ll start with bulldozers preparing the site early this fall,” said Minnesota West President Richard Shrubb. “We’ll build as much as we can through the winter.”
While the field house will mainly be home to the athletic programs at the college, the new expansion will have room for other activities as well.
“The field house is really a multipurpose center,” Shrubb said. “I wasn’t here to design it; my predecessor, Dr. Ron Wood was here. Really, Ron gets all the credit for that. I’ve only had to fight for it for four years — I don’t know how long Ron had to fight for it before that. It’s a multipurpose center, so we’ll be able to increase women’s athletics and we’ll be able to increase community activities on campus.
“We’ll be able to expand our faculty because we’ll have more office space. The programs for wellness and personal enrichment we’ll be having in the field house, so it’s not just a gymnasium by any means.”
Eleven months of construction are planned, with work scheduled to start this fall.
“It would be great if we can start the 2013 fall season there,” said MW athletic director Mike Fury. “That’s the goal for us.”
For the most part, the current building will remain. The east wall will be moved out to add more seating inside the gymnasium. Currently, the gym holds approximately 600 people. That number is expected to reach 1,000 after the project is completed.
“I think we have 12 rows now and I’m thinking this might be like eight,” Fury said. “It won’t be the same size, but it’s going to be two thirds.
“The nice thing is we’ll be able to host high school games and things like that. Right now we’re pretty limited because it’s hard to get many people in there.”
The other walls of the current structure will remain, but the inside will be completely remodeled. The facility will feature a new training room and new offices for coaches, including a meeting room.
“It’s going to be nice to accommodate our athletes when they need to see a coach,” said Fury, who is also the head women’s basketball coach. “We’re going to have a suite and it’s going to be really, really nice. We’re going to have a meeting room — it’s going to be great.”
Along with the new offices, a concession stand and restrooms will be added.
Perhaps one of the best parts for Fury will be the new locker rooms. In the current building, only two locker rooms were available. On game nights, that means teams had to share.
But that won’t be an issue with the new building. Four new locker rooms will be constructed, allowing each team — both home and visiting — to have its own space.
“We’re going to be happy with that,” Fury said. “We’ll be a nice host when visiting teams come in. They are going to like it a lot.”
Two new locker rooms, restrooms and a concession stand will be in the new addition on the north side of the building. In that area will also be a new entry way, a classroom and a multi-purpose area.
“The thing the field house will help us do is expand all the other wellness and personal enrichment activity,” Shrubb said. “Back when it was built, it was for men’s athletics almost exclusively and only a gym. There is really a change in philosophy over the four decades since the field house was built. I applaud the people who put it there because if you can accomplish anything like that, that’s a big deal.”
The new building will do more to be compliant with Title IX as well as the Americans with Disabilities Act —making the building more accessible.
The addition will also be connected to the Worthington Area YMCA.
“The thing that the YMCA enables us to do with the field house expansion is to include more people in the community and not just in credit classes, but in physical fitness, life-enhancing classes, health care classes and enrichment classes,” Shrubb said. “Learning doesn’t always have to be about only credit-bearing classes; there is quite a lot you can do at a college like ours. We’re really happy to be spreading out into that.”
From the athletic side, Fury expects the new addition to help recruit new athletes to campus.
“It’s a pretty attractive facility,” he said. “Not that it was bad, but I don’t know if anyone ever came here because of the facility. I think that has something to do with it.
“It’s going to be state of the art and modern and up to date.”
The current building, which was opened in the fall of 1969, needed updating.
“I always use the metaphor, ‘Like a prescription for your glasses,”‘ Shrubb said. “The one you have now is perfect for you right now. But your eyes are going to change and your vision is going to change. We’re just doing that, we’re constantly upgrading.”
But Shrubb knows it will be used for more than just athletics. He sees it as a gathering place for community events, including book or movie discussions, health screenings and other happenings.
For the time being, the athletic programs will be displaced, but the games should still remain in Worthington.
“We have great partners with the Y and District 518 and we are going to rely on that heavily this year through this construction period with practices and games,” Fury said. “They are great partners, and they are going to help us out. Otherwise, I don’t know what we’d be doing.”
Long time coming
It wasn’t an easy process to get funding through the state legislature.
However, in early May, the bonding bill was passed, giving Minnesota West the go-ahead on the $4.6 million project.
“It was my third time to try to achieve legislative funding,” Shrubb said. “We coordinate everything we do through the MnSCU system statewide. All of our projects we put on a list, and the list is sort of prioritized.”
After being shot down before, this year the project was No. 4 on the MnSCU list.
“Since we were so high, that gave us a little visibility for our state legislators,” Shrubb said. “I talked to every one of our representatives and senators multiple times and just said, ‘Don’t forget us.’ Really, they were very helpful. Rod Hamilton was particularly helpful getting us the field house. Eventually we got the vote and the project was funded.
“We feel like the field house is a good representation of people coming together,” said Shrubb, who noted that higher education is often times a two-way street.
in the future
While Shrubb is pleased with the new field house addition, he has his sights set on more projects in the future.
“We’re moving toward a center of attraction here on the college campus that we’d like to keep expanding,” he said. “So the next thing we’re trying to do is get a dormitory here on campus. They are very expensive, so right now we’re doing a feasibility study to show how big we should build it and what kind of design.
“I’d love to have it built by 2015, so that’s an ambitious goal, but a realistic goal.”
Without much housing available now, Shrubb knows being able to add to the campus will be a huge asset.
“Being able to put housing here will attract students from elsewhere who may very well end up living here, which is a good thing,” he said. “It’s a great environment, so we want to advertise it to people who can have a place to live once they get here. Without that, there’s just no place for people to stay.”
Another building project he would like to see would be the new Nobles County Library on the Worthington campus.
“We’re in dialogue with the library now to see if they’d be interested when they rebuild. ... We’d like to encourage the library to come out here,” Shrubb said. “We would have the college, the dormitory, the YMCA and the library. That would be a really nice destination for people from Worthington to come out and have lunch and walk on the nature trails and go to the library and use the fitness center.”
He sees all of the positive projects going on now —and in the future — as a way to improve the college experience, as well as Worthington.
“Ideally, people will come here, find out what a great place Worthington is and they will want to stay,” Shrubb said. “That is the kind of citizen you want — a college-prepared, work-force-ready citizen who can come here, get a job, stay here and make the town a little bit better just by being here.”