The Lakeland Mirror

The tragedy of the $2.8 million sports facility

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The tragedy of the $2.8 million sports facility

Luke Ulatowski, Website and Social Media Editor

The future of Lakeland sports will leave plenty of Muskies losers.

Last year, Lakeland football and soccer players begged for a new field after their old one fell apart. On Oct. 31, they got a lot more than their prayers answered when then-Lakeland President Dan Eck announced a brand new outdoor multi-sport facility.

He also announced the price: $2.8 million.

In his announcement, Eck sidestepped the issue of meeting that price. He only made vague statements about “fundraising” and “partnerships.”

The word fundraising evokes the image of schoolgirls selling cookies for cancer research. With the dawn of crowdfunding, having a good cause has gone out of style. Still, in a tiny college surrounded by corn, it is ridiculous to think donations will amount to any significant number.

Partnerships, meanwhile, are a fantasy with no guarantee of coming true. No potential partnerships have ever been specified. It is likely that the project began development with only a vague little hope that partnerships would come.

In Eck’s announcement, there was a hole for a third, omitted word. It is the most logical, predictable and scary solution: tuition. For weeks, students chitter-chattered in the halls of how Lakeland found another way to nab their money.

Eck stayed silent. Then, he bailed.

One has to feel bad for Interim President David Black, to whom Eck handed all of his baggage. Those Division III football, soccer and nonexistent lacrosse players were promised a $2.8 million facility. No backtracking now. Yet.

The costly sports facility project shows favoritism toward certain athletes and their wants. Keep in mind: this is the college that’s making students pay thousands for, then shutting down, something as essential to academics as May Term because it’s too poor.

Only players of the aforementioned sports will gain any benefit whatsoever from the $2.8 million spent. The track teams that never had a track in the first place were never acknowledged. That is, the track teams were never acknowledged until February, when Black took the first actual action in moving the sports facility project forward by nixing the track and field program for good, shafting 18 current students and, probably, a number of prospective ones.

“When I heard about not having track anymore, I was very disappointed,” said freshman Kassahun Lehman, a member of the men’s track team. “I felt really bad for the kids on the team who are going to be seniors next year because they won’t be able to compete even if they transfer. Hopefully they bring it back. Never lose hope.”

Since spring has not permitted, physical construction of the facility has not yet begun. It is reasonable to doubt that it ever will. Whether the facility springs up or not, the project’s saga will remain an embarrassing display of discrimination, ill foresight and a lack of transparency.

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10 Responses to “The tragedy of the $2.8 million sports facility”

  1. Tyler Wellman on February 28th, 2017 12:22 pm

    Freedom of the press is one of the great liberties of our country guaranteed to us by the Bill of Rights. However, it is the duty of the free press to provide thoughtful, researched, and verified facts to our citizens. I do not agree with your opinion regarding the new Lakeland Outdoor Athletics Complex but that is what makes America what it is. An amazing bastion of free thought and speech. However, you need to check your facts regarding special treatment, funding of the facility, and the timeline of construction. Feel free to stop by the Wehr Center and we would love to speak with the Mirror staff about all things athletics as well as the construction of the new complex. Go Muskies!

    Tyler Wellman
    Assistant Football Coach

  2. Parke Petersen on February 28th, 2017 5:25 pm

    Well said coach. Thank you for your thoughts. Go Muskies!!!!

  3. Katie Britton on February 28th, 2017 12:24 pm

    I’d encourage all students, especially those with the privilege of speaking on a public platform, to take it upon themselves to learn about the inner workings of the development operations of LU and other institutions. Raising $2.8 million for a small, private school like Lakeland doesn’t happen overnight, with a gift from one donor (unless you know a guy/gal), or from an amateur GoFundMe campaign/crowdfunding effort. The president and other administrators are not up on the 4th floor of WAK selling cookies to raise money for the institution or any other capital campaign. It takes years, many conversations with potential donors/ corporate sponsors, and a detailed strategy to secure funds to even get renderings for such a venture.

    Speaking of donor support… it is because of the generous alumni that respond to fundraising calls-to-action that enables Lakeland and every other institution in the country to make improvements that attract and support students- let alone help build a facility of this magnitude. You are surely aware of the alumni who decide, each year, to give back to the tiny college surrounded by corn you’re referring to (about $1 million a year in annual gifts, not counting other campaigns) because of the special place it holds in their hearts and their desire to support current students. $1 million is a pretty significant number, but could it be more? Absolutely. Shout-out to the alumni that put their money where their mouths are and give back, like the many before them.

    If Lakeland could partner with corporate or community orgs (youth/adult leagues, high schools, etc.) to help with initial and maintenance costs of the facility in exchange for use or maybe even naming rights, that would be ideal/in line with what other institutions are doing to build facilities. As an aside… revenue generating, popular, and donor-supported sports get more attention and more resources. You’ll find that at Lakeland and every other college or university in the country. It’s not discrimination (as long as it’s Title IX compliant)- it’s business.

    As someone who worked in both realms at LU- athletics and advancement, I’m looking forward to this facility coming to fruition. It’ll be a great addition to campus for current student-athletes and a big draw for prospective students.

  4. Q on February 28th, 2017 1:33 pm

    Two things, 1) would it be difficult to set a date and time to have a converation between concered students and Lakeland staff about the details that are question by this article. And 2) make it a convo credit.

  5. sdas on February 28th, 2017 1:55 pm

    I feel as if it isn’t what we need as a campus right now. If you are going to build a field, please make it fair to other organizations and match it to costs.

  6. cafw on February 28th, 2017 3:29 pm

    I am a Lakeland alumna and it actually disgusts me that even more of the students’ academics is threatened by the sports program that was never meant to be the school’s main focus. When I was there, several of us with 4.0 GPA’s lost very lucrative academic scholarships to football players with low (as in they never should have been accepted to the school) GPA’s because the then-coach was a bully who always got his way. And let’s face it, there were only so many scholarships to good around. Of course, back then, Lakeland credits didn’t transfer to other schools well, either, so leaving wasn’t an option if one didn’t want to start all over. Lakeland is a school first. That’s where the money should go first.

  7. Dave Pierce on February 28th, 2017 6:51 pm

    Lakeland University athletics programs are all NCAA division III which means they get no athletic scholarship and if they qualify academically they deserve to be given an academic scholarship just like others that qualify even 4 point students

    Lakeland has a great athletics program and if we didn’t have sports the campus would miss something, athletics is the window of the institution and gets so much free publicity it is worth it and I’m proud of our athletics program and what it Stands for, Go Muskies

  8. T on February 28th, 2017 4:10 pm

    Every college should take part in sports it develops great life learning skills to students and something for others to enjoy. I however do not agree with a sports facility. It would be more cost effective to repair existing fields and develop a track instead. I am well aware there are many students who wanted to take part of track and they arrived to Lakeland with little to nothing. Secondly I would rather see this 2.8 million dollars allocated the existing buildings on campus. Old Main is the oldest building on campus and desperately needs updates. Same with the older dorms. Instead of catering to the athletic department, benefit the majority of Lakeland then the few. I know we have a lot of student athletes but do their abilities really show the need for a new field?

  9. Tom seaworth on February 28th, 2017 4:19 pm

    Boy, they sure were able to set a date and get their great bridge to nowhere (main entrance) done in a hurry a few years back.

  10. Ryan on February 28th, 2017 7:38 pm

    No may Term?!? Boooo. Hope the students get a discount.

    This doesn’t seem like a well researched article bud – you should call and ask for comments, etc and do some of your research before you go off on a tantrum tangent.

The Lakeland Mirror editors invite readers to comment on all articles. Comments will be moderated by editors. Inappropriate or libelous comments will not be published.

If you want a picture to show with your comment, go get a gravatar.


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