ASHLAND — Thanks to the generous gifts of three lead donors, Ashland University stands ready to break ground on a first-class, 125,000-square-foot indoor athletic and activity center adjacent to the Dwight Schar Athletic Complex.
The concept for the Niss Athletic Center was driven by AU parents Dan and Brenda Niss, as well as alumni Jack and Deb Miller and Jerry Ruyan. Completion of the center is anticipated in late spring of 2021.
“Our new indoor facility will be a gem for our students, faculty and staff—as well as a resource for the greater Ashland community,” said AU President Carlos Campo. “We are very grateful to the donors who have already stepped up to support this project, with special thanks to our lead donors, Dan and Brenda Niss, Jack and Deb Miller and Jerry Ruyan.”
“When Brenda and I first heard about the concept of this new indoor athletic facility at a football event last fall, I immediately asked the question, ‘what is the cost?’” said Dan Niss. “I told myself if they can present the proper facility, we will be there to contribute, as I realize the value it will be bring to Ashland University.”
Plans for the new complex, approved by the AU Board of Trustees in May, feature an 80-yard turf field, a 300-meter six-lane track and an eight-lane sprint track, as well as field jump and throwing areas and batting cages. The size of the facility also would make it useful to AU bands and for large events. University officials have predicted the facility could be in use as much as 18 hours a day.
“An indoor athletics facility can benefit a wide range of students. In addition to student athletes and teams, it will be used by the marching band, intramural programs and other student groups. It can also be used by outside groups. It could help us develop partnerships with a number of our friends in Ashland and the surrounding communities,” said AU Director of Athletics Al King.
King also pointed out the new complex will take away weather-related concerns teams have about practices and competition and “could also open up opportunities for AU to host a wide variety of in-season and postseason tournaments and games.”
“I am very happy to be able to help the University in this important undertaking to help it remain one of the most attractive institutions of higher learning in the Midwest,” Ruyan said. “This will enhance their ability to attract and graduate outstanding men and women.”
Donor and alum Jack Miller said AU head football Coach Lee Owens — a former football coach at Galion High School, who led the 1985 Tigers to a state championship — told him nothing could elevate the AU program more than an indoor facility. “I toured a dozen indoor facilities and learned no building is as seductive as an indoor practice facility,” he said. “For the influence it exerts, the power it gives, and the hope of gain it offers to all 23 sports, students, and community. It defies weather and geography!”
Miller predicted national championships in the future as a result.
But the new facility won’t just be for AU athletics.
“This state-of-the-art facility will be an enormous benefit to the Ashland University student , including the Eagle Marching Band,” said director Joseph Lewis Jr. “This building will provide a place for the band to rehearse and prepare for performances while eliminating weather issues. It is also a great way for prospective students to see that the AU community cares about the Eagle Marching Band and is investing in its success.”
“In my two years on Student Senate, interest in an indoor athletic center has been expressed frequently and enthusiastically by many members of the student body,” said AU student Jacob Brown. “Whether you’re an athlete looking for a place to escape those harsh winter practices, an intramural player who couldn’t get a game rescheduled because the Rec Center was booked, or a group of friends who want to make their afternoon ultimate frisbee games year-round, the Niss Athletic Center will provide something for everyone in the AU Community. Building this facility is a step towards making Ashland a more perfect home for many students for years to come.”
The total project cost is estimated $9.98 million, which includes construction of the center and its support areas like offices and restrooms, as well as roughly $2.3 million in soft costs – property acquisition, permits and fees and furnishings and equipment.