During the 2009-10 season, the women’s basketball team made it to nationals. The baseball team was named the MCC tournament champion while two track and field athletes competed on the national level. And they did that all without state-of-the-art facilities.
When the Merillat Complex for Physical Education and Recreation (MCPER) was renovated in 1989, it was considered one of the best facilities of its kind in the area. Today, the MCPER is hindering efforts to attract athletes to campus.
“When it comes to recruiting, our facilities at this point aren’t very attractive to athletes,” said Lori Culler (’86), women’s basketball coach and athletic director.
As it stands, the soccer field cannot be used except for games, and the track has not been resurfaced since the early 1990s.
“We haven’t been able to host a track meet in a number of years,” Culler said. “It would be nice for our track athletes to have a home meet once in a while.”
A $9.5 million project is under way through Together: The Campaign for Huntington University
to renovate and expand existing facilities, including the track, soccer field and indoor playing surfaces.
The campaign project will create a new entryway, expanded exercise and weight-training areas, new classroom and fitness lab space, new bleachers in the gymnasium, outdoor track renovations, a new hardwood gymnasium and all-weather turf on the soccer field. The campaign will also raise funds for a facilities endowment.
“(We are) doing what we can to make things more functional,” said Travis Holdman, campaign co-chair.
While improving the general aesthetics of the facilities, the renovations will allow for greater use of the soccer field for intramurals or other events. Also, the construction of a new hardwood floor over the former pool area will offer new practice space, hopefully even a new location for volleyball matches, Culler said.
Along with the renovations, new construction would add space to the MCPER to accommodate a growing student body.
The entryway will be pushed out from the building to make space for an expanded exercise room, additional classrooms and new staff offices. Storage space will also be added to the rear of the fieldhouse. The training room will also double in size, a concessions/juice café will be constructed, and the laundry and locker rooms will be expanded.
Along with benefiting the 14 intercollegiate sports on campus, the renovations and new construction will also help to improve, in particular, five of the university’s academic programs: exercise and movement science, sport and exercise studies, physical education, recreation management and sports ministry.
“One of our big beliefs is that it’s not just about what we do with our spirits and our minds,” said Dr. Matthew Ruiz, assistant professor of exercise science. “We’re also training to improve people’s bodies so they can truly experience what it means to be human by mastering spirit, mind and body.”
Work began this summer on the MCPER with the installation of the bleachers, and will continue in phases as funds become available.
“I believe in this institution, and I believe in the legacy that we have here. And I would love to have everybody come on board with us and support us in promoting Huntington University,” said Connie Updike, associate professor of recreation management. “We’re just in awe of being able to be servants of God this way.”