Finally! A&E Construction!
After years of hoping, dreaming, and fund-raising, the campus will soon get its athletics and events center; construction is under way.
At the official ground-breaking ceremony for the athletics and events center, the sense of joy and relief was palpable. After years of planning and fund-raising, Ithaca College had met its $52.5 million fund-raising goal for the $65.5 million A&E center; construction was officially under way with those first few shovels of dirt hoisted by A&E Center National Committee chair Mike Serventi ’72, President Tom Rochon, vice president for institutional advancement Shelley Semmler, and other key members of the team that made it happen.
The A&E center, including a 130,000-square-foot fieldhouse, outdoor stadium with lighted turf field, 35,000-square-foot aquatics pavilion, and outdoor tennis facility with six courts, will take about 20 months to build and should be in use in fall 2011.
The center will serve as both a state-of-the-art practice and competition space for student-athletes and the largest indoor event venue in Tompkins County for both campus and community events. The College will be able to bring to campus famous performers, scholars, cultural icons, and political figures who draw large audiences — enhancing the quality of education for all students and the reputation of the College.
Fund-raising for the center began in 2001 and was expected to continue through February 2010, almost a full year after construction was slated to begin. But with the current state of the economy, the board of trustees voted not to move forward without having all gifts and commitments in hand. The A&E Center National Committee, led by Serventi, and Division of Institutional Advancement, led by Semmler, raced to complete a mini-campaign for the center before June 15, when a favorable contractor’s bid would expire.
“The energy of the Ithaca College community to make the A&E center a reality has been overwhelming, particularly on the part of trustees and alumni,” says President Rochon. “The realization of this longtime dream will benefit Ithaca students for decades to come.”
“We had an amazing volunteer effort behind this campaign,” says campaign chair Serventi. “Alumni from various sports teams even banded together to name portions of the center and competed to see which team could score the highest percentage of participation in the mini-campaign. A large number of volunteers reached out to former classmates and teammates, and alumni from IC fraternities challenged their brothers to make gifts as well.”
In total, there were more than 2,600 individual donors to the A&E campaign. While there were many extraordinary gifts among those 2,600, a few especially stand out.
Caroleen Feeney ’86, an Ithaca College trustee, was instrumental in helping the College secure several multimillion-dollar gifts from the Atlantic Philanthropies. “I was not an athlete at Ithaca College,” says Feeney. “I spent my time in the theater. But I was a great fan and supporter of the sports program, and I understand that this project is a vitally important investment in the College’s future. While it will certainly benefit our student-athletes, its impact will also be felt by the entire campus community. Of course, as a theater arts graduate, I’m especially looking forward to the Dillingham Center renovations.”
Ed Glazer ’92, executive vice president of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and his wife, Shari, named the Shari and Edward Glazer Arena in the new fieldhouse. “When Shelley Semmler and President Williams showed me the plans for the six-lane, 200-meter indoor track capable of holding almost 7,500 people, it didn’t take long to decide I wanted to be a part of it,” Glazer says. “Ithaca College is in the process of transforming itself on all levels. I’m thrilled to be giving back and to be part of this exciting time in the College’s history.”
Charles Wheeler ’56 and his wife, Carolyn, will be naming the Charles M. and Carolyn B. Wheeler outdoor tennis facility, which includes six courts. “We’re proud to see the long-term vision of Ithaca College continue to meet the high standards set by its administration,” says Charles Wheeler. “This facility will allow the College to continue to attract exceptional students.”
Chris LaCroix ’79 spearheaded an effort by men’s rugby alumni to name the stadium with lighted turf field for Marty Higgins ’82, a teammate who died unexpectedly of an undetected heart ailment in fall 1979. “Rugby teammates Bill Hirst ’79, Mike Tate ’79, and I had discussed looking for a way to honor Marty’s memory,” says LaCroix. “The IC rugby alumni are both proud and humbled that our good friend and teammate has been honored in this way.”
Serventi and his wife, Gail Weir Serventi ’72, surprised Semmler by announcing they were naming the Shelley S. Semmler Concourse in her honor. “This great fund-raising success could not have happened,” said Michael Serventi, “if not for the all-out effort by the A&E Center National Committee; 100 percent participation from the trustees; the solicitations by coaches, their players and alumni; and the continued support of the administration — all of which was coordinated through the herculean work of the Office of Institutional Advancement.”