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Facility Friday: Millikin Big Blue Student-Athlete Center, Arizona Coyotes Arena, Dayton's Welcome Stadium Renovations

Tabatha Wethal Headshot

Millikin Locker Room Rendering Fullwidth 2Courtesy of

The Millikin University Board of Trustees, on Friday, May 20, approved construction plans for a new campus facility to support student-athletes at Millikin University. Construction is scheduled to begin in 2023 once funding has been secured.

The estimated $6.7 million building will be located at the current site of the Old Gym on Millikin University's campus, which will be razed to allow for new construction. The architectural partner for the project is Decatur (Ill.) firm BLDD. The 10,870 square foot facility will include:

  • A weight room/performance center.
  • Locker rooms to accommodate football, and men's and women's track and field.
  • A training room and a team meeting room for multi-purpose use.

Millikin Locker Room Rendering FullwidthCourtesy of

The new athletic facility will feature 120 lockers and the ability to convert into two separate locker rooms with 60-locker spaces. This project serves as the first phase of Millikin University's Athletic Facilities Expansion and Renovation capital initiative.

"This initiative continues Millikin's forward-thinking momentum and adds to the outstanding physical transformation we have seen on campus over the last few years, including the Workman Family Baseball Field and the Center for Theatre & Dance," said Millikin President Dr. Jim Reynolds. "Millikin Athletics programs serve as a great source of pride for the University, the surrounding communities and beyond. The support we have seen from alumni and friends of the University for this initiative not only shapes the future of Millikin Athletics, but will benefit the University's enrollment efforts and the entire community."

Millikin Director of Athletics Dr. Craig White added, "There is no doubt that additional locker room space is needed for our athletic programs to continue to grow and thrive. The construction of this new facility will solve several existing issues while also allowing Millikin to host College Conference of Illinois & Wisconsin (CCIW) and NCAA competitions."

The new athletic facility will alleviate congestion in the Griswold Physical Education Center, while meeting the needs of Big Blue football and men's and women's track and field teams.

"Facilities are an important part of Division III athletics. Competing on an athletic team is a passion for many students in higher education throughout the country," said White. "Millikin is fortunate to be a part of one of the most respected Division III conferences in the country with membership in the CCIW. The improvements to athletic facilities will allow Millikin Athletics to experience facilities equal to that of other members in this great conference, which will be more attractive to both incoming and current students and ultimately lead to more success on the field and in the classroom."

This project is made possible from paid gift funds, including a generous leading gift from David and Debbie Rathje. To date, $3.7 million has been committed to the $6.7 million project. — 

Arizona Coyotes Tempe Arena Devlopment Rendering 3 20220603Courtesy Arizona Coyotes

The Tempe City Council has voted to negotiate with the Arizona Coyotes on a proposed development of nearly $2 billion that would include a new arena for the franchise.

The council voted 5-2 in favor after a seven-hour meeting Thursday night that included comments from more than 100 citizens and the reading of more than 220 written statements.

“I don’t know whether there is a successful project that will result from the proposal or if the council will ultimately approve it,” said former Tempe Mayor Hugh Hallman. “But that’s a question for a different day. Today is merely to open the door and let the sun shine in on this process.”

The Coyotes gave a lengthy presentation for a 46-acre tract of land west of downtown Tempe that would include an arena, hotels, retail, offices and housing. Former Coyotes captain Shane Doan and three current players also spoke during the meeting.

Team president Xavier Guttierrez explained why the project would be beneficial to the area.

“It reinforces Tempe’s role as a vibrant center for the entire state,” he said. “A location where folks from across the Valley can live, work and play. This project we see as a transformative development, an opportunity to turn a landfill in to a landmark.”

But not all residents were happy with the proposal. “Because it’s gonna mean a lot of noise,” said Doris Provine. “I row on Tempe Town Lake. I know how noisy it is when planes go overhead. I’m worried about traffic. I can barely get around on Rio Salado now, and it’s going to get worse.”

Officials from Sky Harbor Airport expressed concerns about the housing component because the land is 9,800 feet from the end of one of its runways. They did not oppose the arena proposal, but said sound insulation would not be efficient enough with the more 1,000 residential units being directly under the flightpath.

And the Federal Aviation Administration yet again raised concerns about the plan in a letter ahead of Thursday’s meeting.

The letter, which was dated Wednesday, was addressed to Tempe’s city manager. In it, the FAA’s regional manager wrote that the agency does not support residential developments within areas experiencing aviation-related noise levels of 65 decibels or greater. The proposed district would be located within that 65-decibel contour.

The letter added that the FAA conducted a neighborhood environmental survey and found that people were highly annoyed at noise exposure levels of 65 decibels.

NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said via video call that he endorsed the plan without reservation, but said a 30-year no-relocation agreement would be required.

The Coyotes had been on an annual lease at Gila River Arena since the city of Glendale voted to terminate a 15-year, $225 million lease agreement in 2015. Glendale decided to not renew the lease after the 2021-22 season and the Coyotes found a temporary home at Arizona State’s new 5,000-seat arena, starting next season.

Dayton (Ohio) Public Schools' broke ground this week on major upgrades to its Welcome Stadium .

The Welcome Stadium renovation project is an opportunity “that can really galvanize our community,” said Will Smith, president of the Dayton Board of Education. “We want people to spend their money in Dayton, we want people to come visit Dayton, we want people to enjoy being in Dayton — but more importantly, we want to give our kids what they deserve.”

Dayton Public Schools plans to spend about $11 million upgrading the facility. Welcome Stadium opened in 1949, and the most recent revamp was a $3 million project in 2008.

Smith said the first phase is underway, and crews are tearing out the stadium’s track and will soon replace the track and the turf field.

The stadium renovation project will occur in phases to avoid displacing students during the school year, Smith said, and new turf, track and lighting should be ready by this fall.

“A lot of our larger renovations will be done by the fall of 2023,” he said.

Welcome Stadium has hosted numerous athletic and community events over the years, and the University of Dayton football team has played at the property since the 1970s, Smith said.

School officials hope the updated stadium will attract new tournaments and activities.

“Big picture, we’ll bring money back to the community as well,” said Victoria Jones, Dayton Public Schools’ executive director of athletics. “We want to open it up to drill teams, cheerleading competitions — we were very intentional with multi-purpose (uses) when we put this together.”

The stadium also will be home to a Dayton Public Schools hall of fame, which will display some of the school district’s proud history, Smith said.

The stadium also will have educational spaces for students interested in sports broadcasting, medicine and other careers.

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