It was a project that Mount Vernon Athletics Director Justin Sanford said was 25 years in the making.
Now, the Mount Vernon field house, named Energy Fieldhouse, is a reality. The building was opened Sept. 11 in a ceremony before donors and dignitaries.
The roughly $8-million project was fully privately-funded with the Ariel Corporation and Karen Wright matching donations dollar for dollar.
“I would say they donated well over half of what it was,” Mount Vernon Superintendent Bill Seder said. “I won’t get into real specific with the money part because they so wanted that to not be the focus of this. They were really committed to the project and wanted our donor base to stay committed to the project. And that matching piece was such a big piece in our contributions. It was really to empower donors to step up.”
Seder likened Sanford’s contribution to a quarterback marching an offense down the field during the opening ceremony. Sanford began working on the project when he took over as athletics director in 2016.
“It was in my interview that they were talking about it,” Sanford said. “The fieldhouse of dreams. It’s been the better part of five years of designing, planning, strategizing, fundraising for two and a half years. I don’t know … I think it just kind of all hit me.
As he stood at the podium and tried to speak, he was stopped by emotion.
“The realization that after this our kids are going to get to use this thing,” Sanford said. “It’s unbelievable … the building, the facility.”
Inside, there are two locker rooms for boys and girls teams, a weight room, a wrestling room, classrooms and offices.
But the main attraction is in the back. A giant facility that houses an indoor track, complete with space for field events; and four courts that can be used for basketball, volleyball, tennis and even pickleball.
Sanford said the facility has born a new mantra for Yellow Jacket athletic programs.
“The motto now is ‘No excuses,’ because you don’t have an excuse,” he said. “From the weight room to the partnership with (Knox Community Hospital) strength coaches. Our kids are going to have an opportunity to train and compete. It’s just remarkable … it’s a remarkable facility.”
“You want all of the kids to have the best opportunity to succeed,” Bob Tiell, treasurer for the Jacket Boosters, said.
The building will be used for Mount Vernon Nazarene University indoor track as well.
It’ll also be host to the community and possibly out-of-town summer leagues that Seder hopes will help Mount Vernon’s local business in the way of hotel stays and restaurant visits.
“We (aren’t) just going to hold it to ourselves … and it’s all ours,” Seder said. “It was about opening up to the community. I’ve always heard that people are looking for places to walk or exercise in during the cold months. Our plan is to have this staffed in such a way that we can open it up at 6 in the morning and have open hours.”