Construction for practice facility under way

A digital representation of the practice facility, which is expected to be 410 feet long, 210 feet wide and 75 feet tall.

Tuesday morning’s groundbreaking ceremony was the first step toward building the newest structure on Eastern Michigan University’s campus – a multipurpose practice facility for athletics.

“This is another great day in EMU history,” said Athletic Director Derrick Gragg, who was accompanied by President Susan Martin, Mid-American Conference Commissioner John Steinbrecher, President of the Ypsilanti Chamber of Commerce Diane Keller, the EMU Board of Regents and some EMU coaches and players.

It’s to be located on the corner of Huron River Drive and Westview Drive, where there is a grass football field. The facility will be 410 feet long, 210 feet wide and 75 feet tall. The cost is $3.9 million, which also covers a parking lot, a paved walkway and a welcome center.

The project was approved by the regents in June and Michigan’s Joint Capital Outlay Subcommittee in September. It’ll be funded by capital reserves and the tuition increase implemented in 2005. Four percent of that increase was specifically dedicated to infrastructure enhancement and has accumulated $17.6 million.

Gragg said the facility will be shared among the football, golf, soccer, baseball and softball teams. He said it will available to club sports, intramurals and athletes on campus and in the community.

“This facility will provide multifaceted benefits to our community,” Keller said in a press release. “Not only will it be utilized by the student-athletes at Eastern, but provide the community with youth soccer fields, a venue for club sports and provide more than 100 jobs for the four-month construction process.”

The “bubble” facility will be the second of its kind in Division I, while the other is at the University of Colorado. Gragg visited Colorado’s and said his trip helped determine the proper dimensions to be effective. It will feature a full-size football and international-size soccer field.

The facility, which is expected to be complete in Spring 2010, has all parties involved hoping it can give an advantage in recruiting, increase student enrollment and increase profits for the university and the community.

“We’re very excited for this facility,” EMU women’s soccer coach Scott Hall said. “This is something that can help all of us. It gives us a huge recruiting advantage.”

EMU football coach Ron English also said he was excited about the announcement and stressed the benefits to be gained by the university’s athletes.

“These kids have never been able to train in the winter,” English said. “That’s nearly four to five months of development that has been lost. It’ll be awesome for these kids.”

Besides the facility announcement, Regent Roy Wilbanks said renovations to Pray-Harrold will begin in January.

“Student life was improved with the new student center; the new science complex and Pray-Harrold are part of the crucial focus on academics; the new police station emphasized safety and security, and now this facility will help athletics,” Wilbanks said in a press release.

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