KENT: Kent State’s much-anticipated athletic facilities upgrade initiative began Friday morning with a ceremonial ground breaking at the field house and carried through the evening with an elaborate scholarship auction dinner held at center court at the M.A.C. Center.
“It’s the culmination of the planning and the beginning of the building phase to our Building Champions Initiative,” said Matt Geis, Kent State’s senior associate athletic director and the executive director for athletic advancement. “We’ve spent the last three years in a quiet period identifying our priorities — whether scholarship or capital driven — raising significant funds and then planning the public launch of the initiative.”
Friday, Kent State’s athletic department began moving forward with its $60 million Building Champions Initiative.
“Twenty-five million of the $60 million is for scholarships and $35 million goes to capital, construction or enhancements,” Geis said.
The $4.5 million field house locker room project consists of adding an extension to the existing structure. The new facility benefits the soccer, softball, field hockey and men’s and women’s track and cross-country teams. The new building will include a locker room, lounge area and “satellite training space” for athletes.
“The field house project became the number one priority for our Building Champions Initiative for two main reasons,” Geis said. “First, it enhances a number of our sports programs. Secondly, it provides additional resources at the field house that allow us to host track meets and large events that are partial revenue drivers for us.”
Later in the evening at the dinner, 200-plus participants (including various former Kent State athletes) came together to raise money for KSU athletic scholarships by bidding on 80 (75 silent) auction items — including a trip to the Masters golf tournament next year.
Bids began as low $50, while others went into the thousands as guests used discreet BidPal technology that included the use of an iPod Touch and also the aid of student athletes on hand to assist with the device if needed.
“The auction items include various trips including one to the Masters and another to the ESPYs,” Geis said. “There’s also experience-oriented items such as joining coach [Scott] Stricklin and the baseball team on the bench for a home series.”
One of the most anticipated moments of the evening was the announcement of the lucky winner of the raffle to join the football team for its game at Louisiana State on Sept. 13.
“Where my staff has done an absolute tremendous job is coming up with items through our various connections that will really draw the interest from those with athletic or non-athletic backgrounds,” Geis said.
In between dinner and auctioning, guests were entertained by two Kent State graduates — emcee/local sports broadcaster Jeff Phelps (1982) and comedian Mike Polk Jr. (2001).
Plans were also unveiled publicly for the first time for seven future capital projects, including two that involve renovations to M.A.C. Center and expansion and renovations to Dix Stadium.
The M.A.C. Center project includes a “dedicated” practice facility for the men’s and women’s basketball and volleyball teams located where the gymnastics team practices. Geis said the gymnastics and wrestling teams will be relocated to an area “still to be determined.”
In addition, there are upgrades planned to the M.A.C. Center that includes fan amenities.
“A phase of the project that I’m particularly excited about with the arena is there will be a mezzanine level that will take fans all around the arena,” Geis said. “Above that there will be additional suites and loges.”
The plans for Dix Stadium include renovating the suites and adding what Geis called “a new football facility and a facility that will adequately have room for all of our sports programs in the way of training tables, studying and athletic training.”
Stephanie Storm can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read the Kent State blog at http://www.ohio.com/flashes. Follow her on Twitter at http://twitter.com/SStormABJ and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/sports.abj.