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Breaking new ground for the Big Red

© Hastings & Chivetta Architects

Denison University has broken ground on a $38.5 million renovation and expansion of the Mitchell Recreation and Athletics Center.

“This is a project that has been long in planning, and we’re excited to see it now underway,” says Denison President Dale Knobel. “Denison has been fortunate to have extensive sports and recreation facilities, and these 21st century additions will only make them better. The generous donors who are making this possible are investing in the ‘growth of the whole person,’ a hallmark of Denison’s liberal arts education.”

Denison’s varsity athletics programs have combined to record 42 consecutive top-10 NCAA Division III finishes over the last 21 years. Nearly 30 percent of Denison students compete in intercollegiate athletics, and nearly as many participate in club and intramural sports. In addition, the athletic facilities are used by a large number of students, faculty and staff for personal fitness and recreational activities.

At the center of the project is a new natatorium with an Olympic-size pool, four times larger than the college’s current Mike Gregory Pool. In 1962, this pool was named in honor of M.O. “Mike” Gregory, class of 1929, one of the college’s all-time best athletes and most loyal supporters. The new natatorium will feature a 50-meter long, 25-yard wide competition course, a large diving well and spectator seating for more than 1,000. Other highlights of the project include a spacious athletics training suite; a new entryway and lobby, including an Athletics Hall of Fame area; a number of offices for athletics staff; and a two-story fitness center, constructed in the footprint of the current pool and nearly doubling the size of the current fitness center to almost 8,000 square feet, with more than 100 pieces of strength training and cardio equipment. The natatorium is scheduled to be ready for use in the spring of 2012, and the entire project will be completed in the spring of 2013.

The most ambitious athletics facility project ever undertaken by the college, this renovation will provide varsity athletes with outstanding training facilities and will provide modern recreational facilities for students, faculty, staff and community members. As with all new construction and renovation at Denison, these facilities will be built according to LEED standards, a national benchmark for sustainable design by the U.S. Green Building Council.

Gregg Parini, highly successful head coach of the men’s and women’s swimming programs since 1987, says, “Over the years, Denison has established one of the nation’s great college swimming and diving traditions. It is fitting that we’ll now have a facility that meets the program’s high standards. This natatorium will be one of the finest in the country, and it will allow us to develop an even more successful swimming and diving program.” In 2001, the Big Red women’s swimming and diving team won the NCAA national championship.

In 1950 Denison was one of the first colleges in Ohio to build a field house with a competition indoor track. The structure also includes a 3,000-seat gymnasium that is named for Walter J. Livingston, class of 1909, a highly respected Denison athlete and longtime coach and athletics director at the college.

W.W. “Woody” Hayes ’35, legendary Ohio State football coach from 1951-1978, was instrumental in raising funds for these facilities while coaching at Denison. Hayes, a Denison graduate, guided his alma mater to two undefeated seasons in 1947 and 1948.

In 1994, the Mitchell Recreation and Athletics Center was dedicated in honor of Louis A. Mitchell ’57, a Denison graduate, Newark native, Columbus resident, and his family. This some 4,000 square foot facility consists of competitive indoor track and tennis, along with weight rooms and squash and handball courts. Mitchell is widely considered to be one of the college’s best athletes of all time and still holds a number of Denison basketball records.

Livingston, Gregory, Hayes and Mitchell were some of the initial inductees into the Denison Athletics Hall of Fame. In addition, Hayes is in the College Football Hall of Fame, and Mitchell is in the Ohio Basketball Hall of Fame.

“The college’s ability to move forward with the current project is a direct result of generous contributions from alumni, parents and friends of the college,” says Julie Houpt ’75, vice president for Institutional Advancement. “A remarkable commitment of $7 million from Lou Mitchell inspired other donors, including Scott ’70 and Margy Trumbull, Mark Dalton ’72, John ’57 and Connie Smith Taylor ’58, Dan ’80 and Lisa Wolff Brickman ’83, and Janet Crown ’85 to pledge major support for the project. These leadership gifts have been key, given the college’s decision to raise a significant portion of the funding before breaking ground on the natatorium. With additional support from new donors and careful fiscal management, Denison will be able to move forward with subsequent phases of the project. This process will enable Denison to enhance the students’ co-curricular activities while continuing to support the primary academic mission of the college. We’re very proud of this achievement.”

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Photo Credits: © Hastings & Chivetta Architects

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