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ISU may seek naming rights for sports venues to pay for new practice facility

Horton Field House and practice field
Emily Bollinger
Illinois State University plans to build a new indoor practice facility to alleviate space constraints at Horton Field House.

Illinois State University Athletics Director Kyle Brennan says top priority for him in 2022 will be getting a new indoor practice facility built.

Kyle Brennan
Redbird Athletics
Kyle Brennan

ISU’s board of trustees has approved the $11.5 million project, once athletics raises an additional $1 million to reach the $8 million benchmark to proceed. The university plans to use donations to pay off the bonds it plans to issue for the project.

Brennan said the university could seek naming rights for Redbird Arena and other venues from local and national businesses to help secure the remaining funding.

“Those rights would be going out for sale. That’s where we would look to get the rest of the money should we not be able to raise it,” Brennan said in an interview on WGLT's Sound Ideas.

Brennan said getting the university's formal endorsement of practice facility will jump start fundraising, after the athletics department raised $7 million through its quiet phase of its campaign.

Brennan calls the indoor practice facility a "game changer" for athletics.

“It’s going to be great for our student-athletes, but it’s also going to be great for recruiting,” he said. “(Athletes) want to work in the offseason to get better at their craft, too. To have them have the opportunity to do that for a multitude of sports — not just football — is really exciting.”

Horton Field House is used by ISU athletic teams, student-athletes and students.
Emily Bollinger

Brennan said Horton Field House can’t adequately simulate an outdoor playing surface and the facility can’t meet the needs of all student-athletes, students and teams.

Diversity and inclusion

Another goal for the new year, Brennan said, is the department building on its equity, diversity and inclusion efforts.

“(I’m) really excited to keep growing (in) that space. It’s something that doesn’t cost a lot of money, so we should be able to compete with anyone in the country in creating an environment where everyone feels welcome,” he said.

Brennan said he's encouraged to see student-athletes taking lead on messaging to show how students at ISU can thrive, but he said changing culture, and hearts and minds, is hard to measure.

The athletics office launched an action plan in 2020 after ISU student-athletes and some coaches raised concerns that the university was not welcoming for Black athletes.

MVC expansion

ISU is a member of the Missouri Valley Conference. A likely goal for the MVC in the new year is to find a new school to replace Loyola-Chicago, which is leaving for the Atlantic 10 conference. Reports have named Kansas City, Murray State and Texas-Arlington as possible suitors.

Brennan didn't name a preference, but said geography matters.

“For me, what’s really important is to get a strong team or a strong program ... that really adds to what we are doing and is also not so far away that we have travel burdens," Brennan said, adding that university presidents will decide which school or schools the MVC will invite to join the league.

The MVC announced in September that Belmont University in Nashville, Tenn., will join the MVC in 2022.

Eric Stock is the News Director at WGLT. You can contact Eric at ejstoc1@ilstu.edu.