$5 million donation for new fitness center


DePauw’s board of trustees approved the university’s athletic and recreation master plan that includes significant renovations to the existing Lilly Physical Fitness Center and athletic precinct on Friday morning. 
Days later, DePauw received its first major donation toward Lilly to the tune of $5 million from Scott ’82 and Kimberlee Welch for an upgraded community fitness center. 
The gift will fund the M. Scott and Kimberlee A. Welch Fitness Center, a 16,000 square foot addition to the East side – along College Street – of the current Lilly Center. 
The expansion is a part of the first phase of an athletic master plan outlined to the board last week by Athletic Director Stevie Baker-Watson. In total, the renovations to the center will add an additional 36,000 square feet in locker rooms, office spaces and classrooms.
Hastings & Chivetta Architects, an architectural firm out of St. Louis, Mo., was contacted in March to begin drawing plans for Lilly and the athletic precinct. The department was ready to present its needs after speaking with all coaches last fall. 
The process was smooth and quick, according to Baker-Watson, and the plan not only included a new fitness center, but a complete three-phase plan for the improvement of Lilly. 
“We heard loud and clear we needed to fix the fitness center in this building,” Baker-Watson said Monday afternoon. “We say three phases as opposed to saying it’s going to take 30 years. We don’t know how long it will take. It’s funding dependent.” 
Several board members recognized the over-crowded facility as a common concern. Welch, a current board member, said the renovations to the space will allow for a more engaging environment between athletes and non-athletes as well as address what he said was an area much in need of improvement for DePauw. 
“When I look at DePauw as opposed to our Midwest competitors, we are behind the times with regard to some of our facilities,” said Welch, a dual football and golf athlete at DePauw.
His donation is the lead donation that will fund the new fitness center part of phase one. The current fitness center is about 6,000 square feet – this addition will almost triple that. 
“This is not the only gift,” Baker-Watson said. “This is a significant portion of it, not all of it. This lead gift is hopefully one of a number of gifts we will bring forth.
The entire cost of the phase one plan is not yet known, said Baker-Watson. DePauw is in a process of determining a construction manager to give an estimate on how much all of phase one will cost. There is a meeting Tuesday morning to discuss a potential manager, which should be decided within the next two weeks.
“We have a good idea of the overall cost is, but none of us feel comfortable releasing it because a lot can change,” Baker-Watson said. “We have to figure out what’s below. Under our patio is a major utilities hub.”
The other half of the athletic master plan is dedicated to renovating the athletic precinct, specifically with upgrades to the current athletic fields. Enhancements include the installation of a synthetic turf on the football field and improvements to Blackstock Stadium – which was built in 1941 – and the construction of multi-purpose competing venue for both soccer and lacrosse teams at the current McKeen Field.
In the designs, McKeen is now seen to have two, north-south facing fields extending into what is today a parking lot.
Hastings & Chivetta is also involved in the planning of these renovations. There are no major donations announced for the athletic precinct yet.
Kyle Lanham ’79, a current board member, said he remembers watching sporting events and having gym classes in Bowman gym. Times have changed.
“It needs to be addressed now,” Lanham said. “And it will be. A lot of time has been devoted to that. Stevie Baker-Watson did a great job describing the need.”
Baker-Watson hopes the $5 million is the first of many in a capital campaign for all of phase one. She said there is a hope that all money can be raised in 12 months, and the 15- to 18-month construction period can begin.
Welch hopes that his donation, as well as the $25 million gift from David ’67 and Suzanne ’67 Hoover for a new dining hall, will kick start the university’s campaign and raise awareness for potential donors.
“I think the fact that Casey has been here four years and the master plan is done, we’re all starting to recognize some of our passions,” Welch said. “Hopefully, some others gifts will follow. Trustees and DePauw alums are passionate and others are going to see how they can help.” 
As for a time frame, Baker-Watson said there is a possibility the current freshman class can use phase one’s improvements by its senior year.
“There is an asterisk that says funding contingent,” she said. “We can move on it as quickly as we can, which is why we’re pushing Hastings & Chivetta this whole time.”
Hastings & Chivetta designed many DePauw like-minded institutions’ athletic facilities and grounds in the past decade. The architectural company designed Wabash College’s Allen Athletics and Recreation Center that was completed in 2001 and cost $15.4 million. Hastings & Chivetta also designed Wabash’s $6.85 million outdoor facilities improvements that were completed in 2011.
In an effort similar to DePauw, Hasting & Chivetta are the lead designers for Denison University’s $34.1 million renovation/new construction effort to its existing athletic facilities. The completion date for the project is December.
The next milestone for the phase one project is at the February board of trustees meeting where DePauw will balance out how much money was raised and how much the project costs.