By Cameron Siefkes
While in the middle of a meeting with the Board of Trustees, Dick Merriman, president of the college, and the rest of the members received some exciting news.
They learned a grant of $959,000 would be provided by the Mabee Foundation in Tulsa, Okla. for both the stadium and auditorium projects. Merriman said, “It’s a challenge grant and they will give us that provided we raise the rest of the money needed in the next 12 months. It’s a big deal for the auditorium because it gives that drive quite a nice push forward.”
Merriman said the hope is to dedicate the new stadium during Homecoming of this year and dedicate the auditorium at Homecoming of 2011.
Construction for the new stadium began on Jan. 4. The groundbreaking ceremony was at the beginning November of last year, but construction was put off until funds could be accounted for.
Merriman said the project will cost $3.8 million to complete. Many people and organizations have made contributions, but most of those will take around six to seven years to be paid off. If we were going to pay for it out of the cash we have collected it wouldn’t start for ten more years. So, we are borrowing the money to proceed,” said Merriman.
In mid-December bonds were sold in order to raise the money necessary. Merriman said a person could buy a ten year bond and be paid five percent each year. “We twiddled our thumbs waiting for it to be sold. Our contractor was getting itchy, but we couldn’t start until we have that money,” said Merriman.
The college is working with a construction manager in order to accomplish the job. Each piece of the construction will be bid on. Merriman said, “We thought we could save money on the cost because people are bidding aggressively in this economy. Bidders are pretty hungry.”
The goal is to have the stadium completed when students return from summer vacation. “We may wind up in a situation when the field and track are done, but the bathrooms aren’t,” said Merriman. “Building is happening in a sequence that we know we will be able to compete on schedule.”
The time for completion will cause usual activities to take place elsewhere. First is graduation. Merriman said this will more than likely be in Stewart Field House. He feels students will want to have the ceremony where they have more of an emotional attachment instead of somewhere off campus. In addition, for some students, graduation is the only time they will ever be on campus. Graduation will be split into two separate ceremonies—an early one for graduate students and one later in the day for undergrads. This will allow students to receive more tickets for their family and friends. Merriman said, “Using the field house is not ideal because it’s hot and crowded. We are graduating 75 to 100 people with masters so that will shorten the regular commencement,” said Merriman.
This fact is disappointing to Megan Martin, biology senior. Martin said, “Although I am excited about the new stadium and all the positive effects it will have for both the football and track programs and for the college in general, I feel it is unfortunate that for my graduation this spring, I will be limited to a certain number guests.”
The track and field teams will also experience some changes. Jim Helmer, head cross country and men’s track coach, said the teams will be practicing on the high schools track. “It’s a major disruption, but it’s not going to affect the outcome of the season at all because we have very suitable alternatives to being able to practice,” said Helmer.
The Southwestern Relays and the Southwestern Invitational will both be at the Cowley County Community College facilities. Helmer said all of these setbacks are nothing new for him. “For probably five years in the early 80’s our track got to where we couldn’t use it so we used the high school,” said Helmer. “So, this won’t keep us from progressing. It will be worth it when we see that beautiful new facility.”
Cameron Siefkes is a senior majoring in communication. You may e-mail her at email@example.com.