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St. John's University close to go-ahead on athletic facility upgrades, expansion

Thursday, May 28, 2015

St. John's University officials say they are close to getting the go-ahead to continue moving forward with portions of the school's master plan for enhancing and expanding athletic facilities.

Rob Culligan, the school's vice president for institutional advancement, said it is anticipated that work will begin this summer and fall on the athletic plaza and concession building that will complete the school's turf baseball complex, which first opened for play in 2013, and on a seven-court tennis complex to be located nearby.

Meanwhile, a donor wishing to remain anonymous has stepped forward with a $1.5 million gift toward the construction of a long-hoped-for artificial turf practice field with a seasonal dome — a facility which would be used as both a practice location for the school's varsity and club teams and for intramural sports.

The project is estimated to cost around $5 million. With the latest donation, $3 million has been raised. And Culligan said the hope is that work could begin on at least the turf field portion of the project by next spring.

"We've made really good progress on the overall plan that's been put together," Culligan said. "Piece by piece, we're getting these projects done."

Final approval to all three of the projects must be granted by the finance committee of the school's board of trustees before work can begin. Culligan said the board requires 75 percent of the money for each project to be raised before giving that approval.

The cost of the athletic plaza and concession building has been placed at $870,000, and Culligan said $145,000 of that total must still be raised to reach the 75-percent mark.

The school recently put up lights at the baseball complex.

The cost of the tennis courts has been placed at $750,000. And Culligan said with a pledge finalized this week, that 75-percent threshold has now been met.

The excavation, foundation and drainage system needed for the project have already been completed. The school has been without outdoor tennis courts on campus since the old courts were removed to make way for a parking lot in 2011.

"The latest pledge should pave the way for completing the tennis courts this summer and into this fall," Culligan said.

The turf field and seasonal dome have long been one of the bigger tickets on the school's facilities wish list.

The original concept for the facility also called for a tunnel under the road separating the field from Warner Palaestra. The tunnel would connect the two buildings. But Culligan said it is yet to be determined if that will remain part of the project.

"It will be a huge benefit for both our varsity and rec sports," Culligan said. "But it will also be a great tool for recruiting. There are very few Division III schools that will have an artificial turf practice field and seasonal dome like this."

Culligan said the latest donor to the turf field/seasonal dome effort wishes remain nameless. But that he had played football at the school and was making the donation in honor of former Johnnies head coach John Gagliardi.

A group of four to five donors had already pledged a total of $1.5 million to the project.

St. John's athletic director Tom Stock was quick to express his gratitude to all the donors who have helped along the way when it comes to the school's facilities plan.

Projects already completed have included redoing the basketball court at Warner Palaestra's Sexton Arena (which was done in 2008), the expansion of the press box at Clemens Stadium (which was completed in the summer of 2009), lights for the football field and track at Clemens Stadium (which were put up in 2012), the baseball field and Haws Field (the school's natural grass soccer stadium, which opened in the fall of 2013).

"We've had a vision and a plan and a lot of people have pitched in to help us," Stock said. "We have a lot of very generous alumni who are willing to step forward and make things happen. All of this stuff has been done with outside funding."

 

sctimes.com

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