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Perspective: by Jerry Pyle
It was a pretty good week for Cobber sports. The football team snatched a tie from the jaws of defeat (did I get that cliche right?) and the Cobber women's cross country team won a meet at UND in impressive fashion. And, it was announced, Cobber athletic facilities are in for a major face lift and expansion.
The good news for Cobber students and sports fans is that the planned new facility looks to be a wonderful building. The bad news is that, contrary to earlier plans, it will not be completed in time for the college's 1991 Centennial Celebration. The target date for completion is now 1993.
The plan calls for a first-class new building being added on to the east side of the current fieldhouse with, among other things, a 200 meter track and four practice courts. The plan also involves a major renovation of the current fieldhouse, including a new floor, better acoustics, and some new offices. The renovation of the current fieldhouse will take place before the addition is built.
The process that led to the current plans can't compare with the Fargo Dome project in terms of heat and furry.
But, for the players and planners, it wasn't all sweetness and light either.
(This subject can get a little delicate around here so you should, at this point, assume a rather thorough disclaimer, something like, "The views expressed herein are not necessarily those of Concordia College, the athletic department, or an intelligent person.")
Concordia's announced fund-raising plan makes the athletic facilities expansion a small part of a larger whole, nearly 50 million dollars, with major emphasis on expanded endowment funds. The plan is not exactly the result of a college-wide consensus. But it didn't exactly evolve in a vacuum either.
Concordia has by no means the poorest athletic facilities in the MIAC. But the fitness-conscious boom among non-varsity students and the presence of 18 varsity sports on campus were simply not envisioned by the planners who put together the present facilities.
It needs to be realized that the current crowding is the result of success and growth, not failure.
The current Cobber fieldhouse is a huge bottleneck in the delivery of practice and workout opportunities for Cobber students and athletic teams. The fieldhouse, which is also used extensively by the music department and hosts numerous other non-athletic events, badly needs a fix-up. On that there was little debate. The debate within the college focused on when, how and in what context.
Better athletic facilities are, obviously, not the college's only pressing need, especially with Concordia looking to solidify itself for life in the next century.
Planners have rightly identified the college's miniscule endowment fund as a threat to maintenance of the school's current "market position" as a low-cost, high-quality private college. The current small endowment fund also poses a potential threat to the college's very survival should a period of hard times hit.
The athletic department here is not at liberty to launch its own fundraising effort to get the building it needs.
The college, quite properly, seeks to insure that its fundraising not be done in a shotgun fashion which would, in effect, let donors set the spending and educational priorities of the institution.
That policy is irritating to some who see an athletic building as easy to "sell", especially given the daily frustration of inadequate student access to facilities, intramural games that must begin at midnight and athletic teams always squabbling for practical practice times.
The college examined the possibility of just going out and raising the money for a new athletic facility as an isolated fund drive. The administration may have concluded that such a plan might detract from fundraising for other needs. Or it may have concluded that the athletic facility could be used, honorably of course, as a "hook" for getting donations for the less sexy but clearly essential needs of the college, like the endowment.
Regardless of the motivation, they incorporated the needed athletic building, and a campus beautification project (not their words), into a larger fund drive tied to the college's Centennial Celebration in 1991.
Unfortunately, the Centennial Fund Drive was quietly launched using a total dollar figure for the new athletic facilities which had only a modest basis in reality.
When the serious work of planning a building got underway it quickly became apparent that the needed work would cost in the 5-6 million dollar range instead of the 3.4 million dollar figure the fund raisers were using. As these higher numbers came in, the prospect that the project would have to be delayed increased.
Some athletic department personnel felt like they were being blamed for the delay by demanding expensive "add- ons" to the plan, items which were not really "add-ons" at all, just things that needed to be there for the building to be worth even putting up.
But the real reason for the delay from fall '91 to fall '93 stems from the fact that the fund raising campaign to date has produced a lot of deferred gifts but not as much hard cash as anticipated.
It is unfortunate that a plan like this has a tendency to pit constituencies within a college against each other. The music department clearly deserves a better facility in which to perform their gifts to our collective spirit. The mall beautification and bell tower project will surely be a stunning addition to the campus. And anyone who does not think the college needs to improve its endowment situation is simply being short sighted.
Looked at in perspective, the whole fundraising package, including the athletic facilities, represents a balanced picture of the college's properly prioritized needs.
Now let's raise the money to make it all a reality.
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