ISU's new Indoor Practice Facility a 'great iconic addition' to campus
The impact of the new ISU Indoor Practice Facility will go well beyond allowing student-athletes to practice when central Illinois weather isn't cooperative. It will even go beyond the university.
That was the message ISU representatives delivered Saturday evening during a ribbon-cutting event just outside the newest addition to ISU's athletic facilities that was attended by more than 200 people and followed by a tour and reception.
"Our student-athletes cannot wait to use this facility, especially on those really cold, windy days," said Interim Athletics Director Jeri Beggs, noting athletes across multiple sports and from outside ISU will have an opportunity to practice there.
"Nearly every student-athlete on this campus will benefit from this space," agreed Kaitlyn Donovan, president of the Student Athlete Advisory Council and a member of the gymnastics team.
Beggs pointed out the facility will be available for community use, as well, calling ISU a "dedicated community partner."
"It won't just be for Redbird teams," she said.
The $11.5 million indoor domed practice facility has long been at the top of the Athletics facilities wish list, as Horton Fieldhouse has struggled to accommodate the university's sports training needs. The new, nearly 79,000-square-foot facility just north of Horton includes a 100-yard practice football field with a single end zone.
Watching the heated, inflatable structure take shape has been fascinating for Interim President Aondover Tarhule.
"Physically, it's a great iconic addition to the campus, it's very difficult to miss, and it makes a statement. It makes a impact in more ways than one," he said.
"I'm still trying to not call it a bubble," Beggs joked.
Tarhule noted that while people are the most valuable assets of any organization, buildings such as the new practice facility are important, too.
"Facilities that support the learning and the living and the practicing and the competition that our student-athletes engage in is vital to the work that we do," he said.
Head football coach Brock Spack praised retired former athletic director Larry Lyons for starting the fundraising and planning for the facility, as well as "an aggressive approach" to improving facilities dating back to Spack's start with the university 15 years ago.
Fundraising for the long-sought Indoor Practice Facility became ensnared in the controversy surrounding would-be donor Aaron Rossi, the former CEO of Reditus Labs.
Rossi pledged $3 million for the project in 2022, just weeks before he was indicted on federal tax fraud charges. The donation never happened, and ISU’s efforts to cultivate Rossi as a donor — including a costly trip to Indianapolis on one of Rossi’s private plans — led to the resignation of the athletics director.
Construction proceeded even without the donation. ISU borrowed $11.5 million to finance construction. ISU says it’ll pay off that loan using money from other donors along with “future revenue resources generated from the use of the facility as well as other available athletic resources.”