MOUNT VERNON — The future of Mount Vernon Nazarene University athletics turned a corner Monday, June 10, as university and community leaders once again scooped into the dirt of the Lakeholm farm to start the construction of the new Soccer and Lacrosse Stadium and Community Fields.
“Two hundred and fifteen days ago, that’s all it was, when I had that initial meeting with (Mount Vernon City Schools Superintendent) Bill Seder and began talking about the dream of a soccer stadium back here and what it could lead to in terms of collaboration with the high school,” said James Smith, MVNU vice president for University Relations. “Two hundred and fifteen days later, we have a lead gift of $1.25 million and we’ve raised $694,000 toward that match. It has been an incredible eight months.”
A $100,000 donation from the Knox County Foundation has been earmarked for the $200,000 Community Fields portion of the project, according to Smith.
MVNU President Dr. Henry W. Spaulding II, used the words “competition,” “collaboration” and “grateful” to articulate his thoughts on the project and its impact on the community. He emphasized the importance of teaching students how to compete, that character rises through academic and athletic competition, and that the stadium project is bigger than MVNU.
“I stand here today grateful for the community where we are, for the people that partner with us, for those who join in our mission and the privilege it is for us to be a part of what’s going on in this community. We join you, and you join us, in a way that other communities wish they had,” said Spaulding.
Spaulding named the MVNU Board of Trustees, Mount Vernon City Schools, the City of Mount Vernon, Ariel Foundation, First-Knox National Bank, Mark Ramser, Knox County Foundation, Strollo Architects, SoL Harris/Day Architecture, Denny Taylor and Tony Edwards as supporters and collaborators who are making this project possible for the betterment of the entire community.
MVNU Athletic Director Chip Wilson expressed his excitement for the groundbreaking and explained why it was fitting the ceremony took place in the rain.
“The rain helped our old field get to the point we needed this opportunity,” Wilson said. “For me, rain tends to bring beautiful things. When I think about what’s going to be behind us, it is going to be something beautiful.”
The groundbreaking was conducted by Mark Ramser, donor; Jen Odenweller, The Ariel Foundation; Robert Boss, First-Knox National Bank; Fred Parshall, SoL Harris/Day Architecture; Spaulding, Smith and Wilson.
The ceremony marked the start of Phase 1 which includes excavation of the entire site, reseeding grass, fencing, the turf field, lighting and the scoreboard. According to Smith, the turf field is expected to be completed for September games with lights installed for use in October.
Phase 2 will include the brick and mortar aspects of the project including restrooms, locker rooms, stadium seating, concessions and press box. Construction on the second phase will begin when fundraising goals have been met. Smith is hopeful Phase 2 will be finished by fall 2020.
The stadium will be located on the extension of Yellow Jacket Drive, near Cougar Drive on the north end of campus. The complex will feature a stadium with turf field, lighting, seating for 500 spectators, training rooms, locker rooms, concession area, patio seating, restrooms, press box, picnic shelter/pavilion, parking and a full-size grass practice field. The adjacent Community Fields will feature five full-size grass fields that are easily converted into age-appropriate competition fields.
The as-yet-unnamed stadium is part of the $20-million Access to Opportunity collaboration that encompasses four major construction projects on or near the campuses of MVNU and Mount Vernon High School/Middle School. The collaborative partnership will include the new Mount Vernon Avenue bridge and multi-use trail by the City of Mount Vernon, Mount Vernon City School’s Community Field House and Transportation and Maintenance Facility that includes the Yellow Jacket Drive extension, and MVNU’s stadium.
For more information on the project, or to donate, visit www.mvnu.edu/future.