Three to Get Ready
The Hoosier sports tradition is one of the proudest in the collegiate ranks, and what happens on the field has created memories, joy and sadness for the Indiana faithful over more than a century of action. What happens on the field of play has been great, but the surroundings in which those games are played are as much a part of the experience. Every other week through the 2009-10 school year, we will present a history of the athletic facilities at IU. In the 11th of our 12-part series, we take a look at the history of IU's newest athletic facilities.
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In one sense, IU athletics hasn't changed much in nearly 40 years.
If you were a student in Bloomington in 1971, you went to football games at Memorial Stadium, and you headed over to the Assembly Hall to watch the basketball team. If you watched the Hoosiers play one of the two marquee sports at home in 1981 or 1991 or 2001, you were either cursing about how steep the steps were at Memorial Stadium or you were cursing at how steep the steps were at Assembly Hall. Even today, at least from a football standpoint, you enjoy games at one of the youngest stadiums in the Big Ten. Only Minnesota, which opened its new stadium in 2009, boasts a newer gridiron facility than the Hoosiers.
Sure, every other school, IU included, has upgraded its facilities over the years, but in terms of the main buildings, traditions have grown deep. Although some new basketball buildings have cropped up over the years - Iowa, Michigan State, Penn State, Wisconsin and Ohio State all have opened new arenas since Assembly Hall opened in 1971 - it has been nearly 12 years since a new basketball arena opened its doors in the Big Ten.
Instead, the athletics arms race has turned away from the meat-and-potatoes buildings and toward the peripheral facilities, the places where preparing for games is the main focus rather than the games themselves. Some of the higher revenue programs have led the way through the years, but Indiana has managed to make up ground in the facilities area in the past 15 years. The opening of Mellencamp Pavilion, the North End Zone complex at Memorial Stadium and the brand-new Cook Hall outside Assembly Hall are signs that the IU administration is willing to put forth the time, effort and money to keep Hoosier athletics among the elite in the conference.
The football and basketball programs have seen times of triumph and trouble over the years, but when it comes to facilities, the athletic department has managed to eventually react to the problem of keeping up with the Big Ten Joneses. The results have been both functional and spectacular, and the stories of how Mellencamp Pavilion, the North End Zone-Student Athlete Development Center and Cook Hall came to be are studies in determination.
Bill Lynch stood on the practice field inside Mellencamp Pavilion and watched his Hoosiers prepare for the 2007 Insight Bowl. Just a few days earlier IU had knocked off Purdue in an instant classic, catapulting Indiana to the postseason for the first time since 1993. Lynch sent his team through its paces in the relatively warm, dry climate of the indoor practice facility while the December winds howled outside.
"It's a good thing we have this place," Lynch said.
Somewhere, Bill Mallory was jealous.
After all, nobody may have done more to make the John Mellencamp Pavilion a reality than IU's former coach, but he never really got a chance to enjoy the fruits of his labor. He claims he got to use the facility once after spending most of his tenure as IU coach stumping for the facility, but even Mallory admits that the entire project wasn't his idea.
In fact, you have to go back to the short tenure of Sam Wyche as IU head man to get to the roots of the story.
Wyche was one of the hottest names in NFL coaching circles in the early 1980s. He was the quarterbacks coach for the San Francisco 49ers and helped develop Joe Montana into a superstar. Most believed Wyche would be the obvious choice to replace future Hall-of-Fame Niners coach Bill Walsh whenever Walsh stepped down in San Fran, but Wyche needed to build some head coaching experience first.
Indiana, meanwhile, went 5-6 in 1982, and the IU administration decided it needed a change at the top of the football program. Then-head coach Lee Corso had compiled a 41-68-2 record during his 10 years with the Hoosiers, and the program had grown stale. Some 24 days after beating Purdue to win the Old Oaken Bucket, Corso was sent packing.
(Fact - Indiana has never been very good at handling the dismissal of coaches, and Corso's situation is the prime example of this not-so-fun fact. Forget the fact Mike Davis was strung along while rumors flew about his status. Forget the hub-bub surrounding Bob Knight's firing or the nightmare of the Kelvin Sampson "resignation." Corso's situation takes the cake. Legend has it that Corso was assured his job was safe following the 1982 season, but in December of that year, Corso's wife, Betsy, read in the newspaper that Corso had been fired. In these days of Internet chat boards, it's almost impossible to imagine a time when such news could remain a secret until it was printed, but Corso found out he had been let go by reading a newspaper article. Other stories, including a contemporary account from the St. Petersburg Times, claim that Corso found out about his firing on the radio. Whatever the case, it wasn't IU's best moment.)
A few weeks after Corso's firing, Director of Athletics Ralph Floyd turned to Wyche to take over the program. Wyche quickly dispelled any talk that he was using IU as a stepping stone.
"I don't intend to go anywhere else," Wyche said. "I'm coming here to be a college coach, period."
Wyche immediately set out to improve the football facilities at IU. He helped establish the "Twelfth-Man Club," which aimed to raise money to build a football complex under Memorial Stadium. He also proposed the idea of building an indoor practice facility on campus that would allow the Hoosiers to conduct more productive workouts when the weather got sketchy.
Wyche, of course, didn't exactly stick to his word about remaining in the college game. After going 3-8 in 1983, Wyche immediately jumped ship to take over the Cincinnati Bengals. On his way out the door, Wyche donated $10,000 to the "Twelfth-Man Club" to build the complex, and his departure opened the door for Mallory to take over the program.
Mallory immediately picked up the ball from Wyche, and along with Floyd and other IU administrators, he started beating the drum for an indoor practice facility.
"Sam Wyche got things started," Mallory says. "I always gave him a lot of credit in getting the motivation and the direction of upgrading the facilities there. The one thing I really pushed hard with Ralph was that we needed to get that indoor (facility) completed. That was so important for the quality of practices, for off-season workouts, and it was good for the other sports as well. We were all going to benefit from it."
Mallory and Floyd joined forces with Dave Martin, then-head of the IU Varsity Club, to raise money for the facility. It wasn't easy. Early estimates suggested that IU would have to pony up $3 million for such a facility, and it was all money that would have to be raised prior to the construction of the building. Bonds weren't going to be part of the equation like they had been for every other athletic facility built since the 1960s.
"I have to say that the Varsity Club, headed up by Dave, and Ralph, understanding that we needed to make that commitment, that's when we really began to fundraise and get the money," Mallory says. "We had to generate the money back then. You couldn't bond the money. You had to have guaranteed dollars. We began working on that, and it took us most of the time I was there. I was there 13 years, so it probably took us 12 years to get everything together and get everything completed. It was a project, but it was certainly worthwhile."
Floyd passed away suddenly in 1990, and he was replaced by Clarence Doninger. It became clear early on that Doninger was onboard with the plan to build an indoor practice facility, which was already a part of just about every other Big Ten athletic department.
"We've got a wonderful complex here," Doninger told The Herald-Times in Bloomington in April 1991. "The one thing we lack, that people have already started talking about, is an indoor facility we can use for football and other purposes. It's commonly thought of as an indoor football facility; I'd prefer to think of it as an indoor athletic facility.
"I don't know whether that is feasible. I do know people are already talking about it. Almost all the other Big Ten schools have such a facility, as I understand it, so we'll probably be forced to get there sometime. I would like to see that happen. It's a matter of priorities. I would think in terms of a five- or 10-year goal, that has to be on the list."
In November of that same year, Doninger met with some members of the Board of Trustees to discuss a number of issues, and he included a discussion of an indoor facility. Specifically, he told the Board members that he was in favor of building a new indoor facility to keep up with other Big Ten programs, all of which had such a building, save for Northwestern.
Mallory, Floyd and Martin all continued to raise money for the facility, but they ran into roadblocks as they started to near their goal, which had grown to $6.5 million. Despite the financial issues, Mallory and other IU administrators started touring the indoor facilities at other schools during the off-season to pick and choose what they might want in a future facility on the IU campus.
"I remember going to Michigan, and Bo Schembechler said, 'When you build it, make sure it's wide enough,' " Mallory says. "(The Wolverines) had a kid who had been seriously hurt because the wall was so close to the practice field that he ran into the wall and was seriously injured. It was advice like that that we got."
With the drive to raise funds stagnating through the summer of 1993, the athletic department decided to shift tack a bit. Instead of asking for smaller donations, IU announced it was entering what it called the "major gift phase" of the fundraising. Of course, the smaller donations still would be accepted, but IU was looking for gifts that would put the project over the top. Doninger told The Herald-Times in early November that the department had already received $2.5 million in donations and pledges, and he set a target date for the start of construction for the spring of 1994.
The major gift phase yielded some key donations, but they weren't anywhere near enough to put IU over the top. At that point, an idea started to take root between Mallory and Martin, one that would eventually help the dream of an indoor facility become a reality.
"We kind of came to a screeching halt at one point," Mallory says. "That's when Dave and I contacted Rich Mellencamp. That was John's dad. I knew Rich, and of course, I knew John. With Rich, it really was Dave and I who made contact with Rich to see if John would be interested in coming up with the remaining amount of the monies. We approached Rich, and I spent a few weeks saying to Dave, 'Have you heard anything from Rich?' Dave would say no.
"Finally Rich contacted us and said he would like to meet with Clarence and Dave and I. We met, and he said John would definitely give $1.5 million. We still eded the other $500,000, and Bill Cook stepped up and gave us the other money to get us to $2 million. When we got that, we started to get plans laid out."
(Fun fact - It pays to be a famous rock star, and we don't mean financially. Mallory says he got to know John Mellencamp because the singer liked to play touch football, and Mallory would allow Mellencamp and his friends to play touch football at Memorial Stadium on Sundays during the season. Normally, Mallory didn't allow outsiders to use the field on Sundays during the season, but for Mellencamp he actually locked the doors behind him so no one would bother the singer or his group.)
As with everything else in the world, money talks, or in this case, it provided a name for the facility. When Mellencamp's donation was revealed to the Board of Trustees, a motion was quickly made and seconded to name the facility the Mellencamp Pavilion. The motion passed unanimously, and despite the fact there weren't any plans available yet, the building had a name.
By the way, no less a luminary at IU than Herman B Wells, former president of the University and Chancellor, who also happened to be the head of the naming committee, advised the Trustees to go forward with the Mellencamp naming. Mellencamp had hoped to downplay the donation, but IU went ahead with its plans anyway. Trustee Ray Richardson, interestingly, tried to justify the naming, but his rationale didn't line up with the reality of the project.
"Mellencamp met the (naming) requirement by paying for half the cost (of the facility)," Richardson was quoted as saying in the Indiana Daily Student.
Of course, Richardson knew darn well that the cost of the construction would be far higher than $3 million, but that was the explanation he gave. Regardless, Doninger was thrilled with the development.
"We are extremely pleased to receive these two very significant gifts," said Doninger of the Mellencamp and Cook donations. "With this generous support, our dream for an indoor practice facility will become a reality."
During a Jan. 19, 1994, Board of Trustees meeting, Doninger told the board that IU had roughly $4.2 million pledged for the project, but construction wouldn't begin until all the pledges and costs were established. Doninger did, however, believe that groundbreaking would occur sometime in 1994.
Meanwhile, outgoing IU president Thomas Ehrlich lamented the expense of the football program, even while acknowledging it was a key part of the athletic department. Still, he seemed to hint that basketball was a bit more palatable from a financial standpoint than football.
"The advantage that basketball has over football is you can't spend that much money on it," Ehrlich told The Herald-Times on July 19. "Football has such huge investments in equipment and people. Goodness knows… look at Michigan. (It has) two indoor facilities.
"But we're going to have one," he later added. "At least it will look decent. It will be the first indoor facility that I've seen that does."
By October 1994, Indiana was prepared financially to take the next step toward the building becoming a reality. The Board of Trustees unanimously approved the construction of the build, and the appropriate state approvals were requested. Because the facility would be financed solely through private donations, state approval was just a formality.
While IU was waiting for the State Budget Committee to make its decision, Indiana took on the task of finalizing plans for the construction.
"In the fall of 1994 we solicited designs to build it," Chuck Crabb, longtime public address announcer at Assembly Hall and the current assistant athletic director of facilities, told the June 26, 1995 IDS. "We received 18 proposals from 17 different groups."
Indiana was incredibly detailed in its requirements for the designs. An 80-page booklet was printed listing everything the Hoosiers wanted in their new facility. Most importantly, it was to be "a clear standing structure with a practice area and a full football field." After the proposals were returned, Mallory remembers a meeting at Assembly Hall in which he and a number of administrators looked over a long table that was filled with different designs.
Eventually Ratio Architects of Indianapolis was awarded the design contract, and Weddle Brothers Construction Company of Bloomington - a firm that had made all of the renovations to Memorial Stadium since 1984 - was awarded the general contract. Ratio's design called for a 404-by202-foot structure with an arched ceiling that would measure 72 feet high at the highest point and 35 feet high near the walls. The arched design would match the architecture of the nearby IU Fieldhouse - later to become the Harry Gladstein Fieldhouse - that was attached to Assembly Hall. The arched roof lowed the profile of the building, as well, and the building would be excavated at least eight feet deep to lower the profile some more. The 96,129 square-foot facility also would feature a meeting room, two offices, a training room, a full kitchen and 8,000 square-feet of storage.
Besides providing space for football, baseball, softball, field hockey and golf practices, the pavilion also could serve as a practice facility for IU's marching band, the Marching Hundred. Netting was planned that could be lowered from the ceiling to provide batting cages for baseball and softball. The lighting system was designed to mirror outdoor lighting conditions as much as possible.
"The reason that's beneficial is when you're trying to catch a football, the background is going to be a virtually shadowless background, which is much more closely aligned to what you have in the sky," Ratio Architects president William Browne said.
The pre-cast concrete exterior was designed to match the exteriors of Assembly Hall and Memorial Stadium.
Finally, on Jan. 3, 1995, the State Budget Committee gave its final approval. Mallory's dream was on the way.
The project broke ground in late April, and construction was expected to take less than nine months. Rain, however, immediately became an issue, and although Weddle Construction did its best to stay on schedule, the opening date started to roll back as early as June. Although Doninger hoped to open the facility in time for IU to prepare for the Old Oaken Bucket game in late November, it was clear that the estimated time of completion would be in early January, 1996. Doninger, however, continued to hope that the field would at least be ready for Mallory's team to use it while it was preparing for a bowl game during the month of December.
It's understandable why both Mallory and Doninger were so keen on the Hoosiers having a nice field on which to prepare for a bowl game. We'll let Mallory himself describe some of the conditions they previously faced while practicing for the postseason.
"The weather would get bad, and we would be over at the University School practicing in the gym," Mallory says. "We practiced anywhere we could, anywhere that was closed in. We couldn't get on the field. It might be bad weather or snow, and I always felt it hurt our bowl preparation. We just never had the facility that allowed us to prepare like you would like to until we got Mellencamp. When we got the opportunity to go to the bowls, I would try to find anything. I remember one time we practiced underneath the stadium back where they parked (laughing). We practiced in there. We just had to find anything where it would be dry and give us some space. It was challenging. But it's what we had to do, and we didn't sit around complaining about it."
Mallory also was excited to have a venue in which to hold off-season conditioning drills.
"The off-season program, for example, Lordy, we had to do it at the University School," Mallory says. "We were over there running up and down stairs at the gym. We found something, I can guarantee you that. We were out running in the halls and doing our drills, and we had what we called the eight-station program. I know one thing. When the kids got done, they were tired. We found space to give them a good workout."
The construction forced Mallory's teams to make some adjustments to their schedules. With the pavilion being built right next to the practice fields north of Memorial Stadium, the Hoosiers were forced to move two-a-day practices during the preseason camp to the intramural fields behind the tennis pavilion. The reason? Safety. With construction cranes waiving around, IU wanted to keep the players out of harm's way.
"I don't want to say it was tough, but it was something we had to do," Mallory says. "As long as it was a grass field, we were glad to have the opportunity. I never looked at it as being a problem. We couldn't be around with the construction going on, so the maintenance people did a good job of laying out the field. It worked out. It wasn't a big deal."
Of course, at the time, Mallory was simply interested in saving his own skin.
"We may just keep coming up here for a while," Mallory told The Herald-Times on Aug. 24, 1995. "I don't want to be anywhere around there when that big crane starts swinging steel beams around."
The Hoosiers moved back to the regular practice fields a few days later. Mellencamp Pavilion, meanwhile, wouldn't make its debut until the spring. Weddle Construction blamed a nationwide shortage of steel for the delays, saying they couldn't get material fast enough to build the structure's eight segmented arches. Also, Weddle said the building proved to be more difficult to construct than expected.
The problems snowballed. For instance, when digging the foundation, more rock was found on the east side of the building than was expected, which delayed the construction of the walls and arches. Those delays set the work on the floor of the building back, because the floor work couldn't begin until the roof was finished.
Finally, by the time spring football rolled around for Mallory's 1996 squad, the building was ready. Well, almost ready. Final inspections forced Mallory to hold one more spring practice in snowy Memorial Stadium-the Hoosiers actually lost a day of work due to 15-inches of snow being dumped on the field on the first scheduled day of workouts-and he finally got a chance to hold his first practice in Mellencamp Pavilion March 25.
"It's as nice as I expected, and even nicer," Mallory said. "It really improves the quality of practice; you get more done. We've been criticized for so long for not having a facility like this - now we do."
The building was finally dedicated April 12, 1996, with IU president Myles Brand leading a group of speakers. John Mellencamp and his family were on hand, and he admitted that he enjoyed seeing the building that bared his name come out of the ground.
"We'd drive by occasionally and see how it was coming along," Mellencamp told reporters at the dedication. "I was just glad to see it get built. The University has been awful nice to me. It was a way I could help them, and I did."
Sadly, Mallory wouldn't get the opportunity to use the building for long. He was dismissed-a controversial decision that rages in some quarters to this day-after his Hoosiers posted a 3-8 record in 1996. The dismissal came despite the fact IU had suffered back-to-back losing seasons for the first time since Mallory's first two years with the program. He remains the winningest football coach in IU history.
Mallory's replacement, Cam Cameron, used Mellencamp Pavilion to its fullest. He invited fans to watch spring practice at Mellencamp, and the traditional Pigskin and Pancakes Scrimmage was renamed the Fan Fest and held in Mellencamp Pavilion. More than 2,000 fans showed up to watch the scrimmage while standing on the sideline.
(Fun fact - The arrival of Mellencamp Pavilion created some unanticipated confusion at the athletic plant. See, when people started talking about meeting at "the pavilion," some didn't know if their friends meant Mellencamp Pavilion or the Tennis Pavilion. In response, the powers that be changed the name of the tennis facility to the "Tennis Center" to avoid any further confusion. As it turns out, the folks at the Tennis Center were never consulted about the name.)
Cameron continued to work the pavilion into the mix, using the facility even when the weather was nice. After all, it served as an extra practice field, and its proximity to the outdoor practice fields made it a no-brainer for the Hoosiers to take advantage of the extra room. Cameron even went so far as to use Mellencamp as the venue for the 1999 spring football game. Cameron held the 1998 event on the soccer practice fields immediately following the women's Little 500, and the same plan was in place for 1999. Bad weather, however, forced the game to Mellencamp, where fans watched the action while ringing the field.
Over the years, Mellencamp Pavilion has been the savior on a number of occasions for different IU sports, allowing a dry space for both in-season and off-season workouts for most of the sports. Conditioning drills are held there, and different banquets and events have all been held within its walls. It finally served its biggest purpose following Austin Starr's magical kick that sent the Hoosiers to the Insight Bowl in 2007, providing IU with a facility in which to prepare for the postseason.
Lynch is thrilled his team has the facility, and he can't imagine coaching without it.
"Shoot, (Mellencamp Pavilion) means the world to our winter program and our spring (workouts)," Lynch says. "We're going to have four or five days when the weather is bad, and we're going to have a good place. When we start going to bowl games on a regular basis, it's going to help with preparation. I don't see how you can go without it in this climate anymore and still be competitive."
Staying competitive is always the goal for any athletic department, and unfortunately the idea of "keeping up with the Joneses" hasn't gone away. Once upon a time, Indiana needed to build an indoor football facility to stay competitive not only from an on-the-field standpoint, but also from a recruiting standpoint. The bells and whistles at other programs hold a lot of weight for high school prospects, and by the middle part of the past decade, it became painfully clear that IU had fallen behind other Big Ten schools from a facilities standpoint.
For instance, IU's football complex, which was considered the state-of-the-art when it opened in 1985, was woefully undersized and outdated just 20 years later. In fact, it was so obsolete that it began to hurt the Hoosiers in recruiting when compared to the facilities at other programs, something the IU football program didn't need considering its tradition of struggling.
By 2004, the entire athletic department was struggling. The football program wasn't winning much under Gerry DiNardo, and the men's basketball program missed the NCAA Tournament for the second straight year under Mike Davis. The department itself had seen Doninger retire, Michael McNeely get hired and fired in a span of 16 months, and Terry Clapacs had been in place as interim athletic director for two years.
By the time Rick Greenspan took over as Director of Athletics in September 2004, the IU administration was simply hoping to find some stability. Greenspan planned on being a long-term solution, and early in his tenure he focused on improving the facilities at IU.
"I don't think that athletics facilities are going to win you games," Greenspan said at the press conference to introduce him as AD. "But I do think that improved facilities send a clear message to student-athletes that the institution cares, that the institution is going to give them every opportunity to train to win and prepare to win."
Greenspan didn't take long making changes from a coaching standpoint. He replaced DiNardo with Terry Hoeppner following the 2004 football season, and Davis was pushed out the door following the 2005-06 campaign. Although Hoeppner provided plenty of enthusiasm for the football team and created a buzz around Bloomington, the real move toward improved facilities didn't arrive until IU began its search for a basketball coach.
Enter Kelvin Sampson. Love him or hate him - and we're pretty sure where most Indiana fans stand in that equation - Sampson came to IU with a vision not only to improve the Hoosiers' fortunes on the court, but also to improve the facilities in Bloomington. Just two weeks after being named IU's head men's basketball coach, Sampson met with the media to talk about how he was adjusting to life as Indiana's coach. He also used the session to talk about some of the problems IU had with facilities and talked about what had been done at Oklahoma, his former employer.
"The men's and women's teams practice in the same facility, and they play in the same facility," Sampson said of IU's situation. "That's the only gym in this building (Assembly Hall). When I got to Oklahoma our offices were up in the cement block building, and we had to ask questions about the weather. When I left there I think we had the preeminent basketball facility in the nation. Everybody from (then-Kentucky coach) Tubby Smith to (then-Michigan coach) Tommy Amaker came to look at our facilities, and I'd like to see the same thing happen at Indiana. You can't sit back and rest on your laurels. You have to get on the balls of your feet, be aggressive and move forward.
"(At Oklahoma) we built a men's and women's practice facility with a weight room, central training room, a central weight room. Each program had an unbelievable film room, players' lounge, coaches' locker room and legends lobby where we had a chance to honor the former players and coaches."
With Greenspan, Hoeppner and Sampson all on board, the athletic department had the momentum to push for a bold plan that would see the north end of Memorial Stadium enclosed and renovated, with an entirely new football complex being constructed underneath the stands. A practice facility also would be constructed outside Assembly Hall, and new facilities for baseball and football were included in the plan.
Private funds wouldn't provide the bulk of the financing this time around. Instead, Greenspan had to go in front of the Board of Trustees to make his case for funds to build the project, which was estimated to cost $55 million. Ratio Architects, the same firm that designed Mellencamp Pavilion, provided renderings for the North End Zone Project at Memorial Stadium, while HOK Sports was tabbed to provide preliminary designs for the practice facility and the baseball and softball facilities.
Greenspan and Sampson were on hand to address the board, but the most powerful statement about the importance of the improvements was the presence of Hoeppner. He appeared before the board 10 days after undergoing a second brain surgery in his battle against cancer that would eventually take his life. He called the project "essential" to the future of IU football, and he believed the project was important enough to make his first public appearance following the surgery.
According to the minutes of the Sept. 21, 2006 Board of Trustees meeting, the proposal asked for "the construction of the Hoosier Education and Performance Center at the north end of Memorial Stadium, the renovation of space under the east stands of Memorial Stadium, the creation of the new Basketball Development Center adjacent to Assembly Hall, an overall assessment of Assembly Hall and the construction of the Baseball/Softball Complex northeast of the Mellencamp Pavilion." The entire project was expected to consist of $10 million in fundraising through donations - IU called that movement the "For the Glory of Old IU" campaign - with the remaining $45 million coming from bonds that would be issued by IU.
The financial breakdowns were that $25 million of the cost would go toward the improvements at Memorial Stadium with another $15 million going toward the basketball practice facility. Some $14 million would be allocated for the construction of the baseball/softball complex.
The proposal for the North End Zone called for a new building of approximately 100,000 assignable square feet to be added beyond the north end zone of Memorial Stadium to accommodate what was being called the "Education and Performance Center."
"This multi-level facility will connect the east and west stands and will house the football offices and meeting/video rooms, athletic administration offices, a state-of-the-art strength and development center, and a Hall of Champions/Recruiting Center," the minutes of the Board of Trustees reported. "The space under the east side of the stadium that currently houses the football offices and strength/training room (approximately 18,000 assignable square feet) will be renovated to provide space for the Academic Center for Excellence and the Marching100."
The basketball development center was proposed to be a new building with approximately 67,000 assignable square feet of new space, and it would provide practice court areas for both the men's and women's basketball teams and will also include coaches' offices, locker rooms, meeting/video rooms, and strength development and training rooms for the men's and women's basketball teams.
The baseball/softball complex would feature new stadiums for each sport to be built northeast of Mellencamp Pavilion and would feature artificial turf playing surfaces, indoor batting cages, bullpens, coaches' offices, locker rooms and press boxes. Enhanced fan amenities will include ample parking, an entry plaza, picnic areas, concession areas, restrooms and appropriate fan seating.
Based on the understanding that the athletic department would generate all the funds needed through bonds and donations, and that no money from the general fund or student fees would be used, the entire project was unanimously approved by the Board Sept. 22. The upgrades were on their way.
Hoeppner wasted no time in using the renderings of the facility in his recruiting. Just a few weeks after the approval, Hoeppner could barely contain his excitement - not that he ever tried very hard in that area - over the improvements to come.
"The fact that we can talk about that dream… picture it! Just picture it!" Hoeppner said. "Now we've got renderings. I never thought I would feel so strong about a word as I do about renderings - yeah, renderings! I love them! I stood out on the field with two of the top recruits in the Midwest before the game and said, 'There. That's where my office is going to be, and we're going to be standing out on the balcony and looking down on this field. Can you see it? I can see it! Can you see it?!' "
Construction didn't begin right away on the North End Zone project, which would be the first effort tackled. Administrative issues, such as finalizing plans and coming up with the financing, took a few months to sort out as did receiving and accepting bids. In fact, at least two contractors - Weddle Brothers Construction (Mellencamp Pavilion) and F.A. Wilhelm Construction (Assembly Hall) - had been instrumental in shaping IU athletic facilities over the years. They both participated in the latest construction.
Unfortunately, the delays cost Hoeppner dearly because time was the one thing he didn't have. After taking a leave of absence for spring football and later announcing he would take the 2007 season off, Hoeppner passed away June 19, 2007. That also happened to be the same day as the groundbreaking ceremony for the project.
The Hoeppner family insisted the ceremony be held despite the sadness in the IU community, and the groundbreaking doubled as a celebration of Hep's life.
"Make the plan, work the plan, plan for the unexpected," Greenspan said, repeating one of Hep's favorite sayings. "Earlier today, Coach Hep passed away, and when I asked (Hoeppner's family), who are here with us today, if they wanted us to cancel the ceremonial groundbreaking they said, 'Absolutely not.' This was Terry's dream. This was his dream job. It is ironic that days after Terry's second surgery, he appeared before our Board of Trustees and lent strong support and endorsed the facilities that we are breaking ground for today. And here we are again today, putting a shovel in the ground to make this vision a reality. As I said to Jane earlier this morning, Terry never quit, he just ran out of timeouts."
Actual work on the facility began in July, and construction continued throughout the 2007 and 2008 seasons. Finally, in June 2009, the facility opened for use by the football team. Besides state-of-the-art meeting rooms and a tunnel from the facility straight onto the practice field, the gem of the project is a 25,000 square-foot weight room that ranks among the largest in the country. The football program's offices moved to the second floor of the facility as did the offices for new Director of Athletics Fred Glass, who replaced Greenspan in the wake of the scandal that forced Sampson out of Bloomington, and other administrative offices. The Hall of Champions on the fourth floor is the largest banquet facility on campus, and it has hosted a number of events in the short time it has been in use.
Lynch says the addition to the stadium, which was dedicated Oct. 2 during a ceremony at the Hall of Champions, has provided a boost to the morale of the program and will continue to help in the future.
"(The players) take great pride in it," Lynch says. "From a morale standpoint, they have a bounce in their step. They see a real commitment to football. Obviously there is a lot of convenience because it's so functional. The weight room is fantastic. The tunnel to the practice field, which in essence is to Mellencamp, and the technology in the meeting rooms is great. It's so much better and more comfortable. Seeing the history of Indiana football on the walls is really valuable."
The addition of the Academic Center, which is currently under construction, should help as well.
"I think right now it's a great facility," Lynch says. "Fans aren't going to see it right now, but what they're doing with the Academic Center right now is going to be humongous. That will create a 'wow' factor like the weight room. Plus, it will be better for the kids. I think they've done a great job. I've lived through the change, and I'm sure a few years from now we'll want the next thing and the next thing, but we don't sit here and say to ourselves, 'Boy, we really need this now.' We're still learning how to use what we have now."
The facility is officially named the North End Zone Student-Athlete Development Center, which not only is a mouthful but also creates the potential of snarky sportswriters calling it the North End Zone SAD Center. Glass, however, says naming opportunities for the facility are always available, and the University is exploring a number of options in that vein.
The addition of the North End Zone project brought IU football into the 21st century, and the Hoosiers hope the program will use the boost to start making bowl trips an annual event.
Despite being one of the cornerstones of the improvement projects, the basketball practice facility didn't begin construction until early 2008. The building is designed with separate practice courts for both the men's and women's programs, and state-of-the-art training and rehab facilities are provided. Locker rooms for each program, plus new offices for both the men's and women's programs are part of the construction. A tunnel runs from Assembly Hall to a hallway in the practice facility that leads to the entrances to both practice courts. In other words, players won't have to brave the chilly Bloomington winters when they are moving between Assembly Hall and the practice facility.
The front of the building will serve as what is being called "Legacy Court," which will provide a venue for IU to celebrate its rich basketball tradition. Memorabilia from the Hoosiers' glory days will be a part of the museum-type lobby, and Indiana hopes it will become a destination for fans.
The construction has progressed steadily over the past two years with little news being created. In fact, the building of the facility has been downright quiet, save for some noise from the excavation that could be heard during the final days of Kelvin Sampson's reign. New head coach Tom Crean has said that he's excited about the facility, but he hasn't said much about the facility since becoming the head coach April 2, 2008.
That doesn't mean he's ambivalent about the addition at all.
"It's not that I'm not excited about it," Crean said in February. "But reality to me is practice. Reality to me is to go recruit. Reality to me is to get ready for a game. You spend so much time with your daily realities that… do I still get excited driving by that building every day? No question about it. Do I look at it every time I park my car? Absolutely. Do I look at it on the way out? No question. I just haven't spent much time going through it yet, but I know the few times that I've been in there, it was a big deal. I can't wait for all the pageantry of it once we get in there. I've loved all the meetings that I've been a part of for it. I have great trust in the people who put the plans together for it and the people who are seeing through those plans."
Unlike the addition to Memorial Stadium, Assembly Hall's newest neighbor already has been given a proper name. In February 2010, IU announced that the Cook Group, headed by Bloomington businessman Bill Cook, had provided the largest gift in athletic department history when it donated $15 million to the "For the Glory of Old IU" campaign. In the wake of the gift, IU President Michael McRobbie and Glass announced that in recognition of the donation, the basketball practice facility would be forever known as Cook Hall.
"This extremely generous gift from Bill and Gayle Cook will leverage many benefits for our athletic programs and for the entire Bloomington community," said IU President Michael A. McRobbie. "Their tremendous support will help ensure that we continue to build upon our proud and longstanding traditions of academic and athletic excellence. All of us at Indiana University are grateful for the Cooks' steadfast dedication to the university and community."
Cook Hall officially opened April 25, and there is more than a little irony that the facility Sampson worked to get will help raise IU basketball from the ruins he left. The addition of Cook Hall to the equation for the basketball programs at IU will help stave off talk about the replacement of Assembly Hall, at least for a while.
So what exactly does the future hold for Assembly Hall? And what about the baseball/softball complex that has yet to start? What exactly will be the direction for IU athletic facilities down the road? Those are good questions. That, however, is a story for another time.
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Ken Bikoff can be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. He is thankful for Mellencamp Pavilion every time it rains at football practice because he hates getting wet.