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Bethel breaks ground for new sports complex

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NORTH NEWTON, KAN. -- A day that many at Bethel College have been looking forward to for years finally arrived with the groundbreaking for a new sports complex on Sept. 6. First to break ground were 16 students, representing all of Bethel’s varsity athletics programs--men’s and women’s soccer, basketball, tennis, track and cross-country, along with football, golf (men) and volleyball (women)--as well as health management majors, student athletic trainers, the Student Senate and the Student Alumni Association.

Each student carried to the front a symbol of his or her respective sport. Daniel Regier, a senior from Newton representing the Student Senate, brought a plastic disc in honor of what might be the favorite universally played sport at Bethel--Ultimate Frisbee®.

Following this, eight others broke ground in the names of the Bethel Board, the stadium campaign, Bethel donors, the Booster Club, the faculty, the athletics department, the student body as a whole and the office of institutional advancement, which is responsible for fundraising for the stadium complex.

Three of these eight--Lisa Habegger Loganbill (basketball, volleyball, track) of Hesston and George Leary (football) and J.O. Schrag (football), both of North Newton--were sports standouts during their own Bethel days.

"This is a good day for Bethel College," said president E. LaVerne Epp. "We gather as a campus community to celebrate the future at this site.

"As we look ahead, we can imagine watching track, soccer and football events, day or night," he continued. "We can imagine large, outdoor [religious] events or musical concerts."

But more than that, Epp said, the sports complex will be a place where students will "learn to compete and achieve, develop leadership characteristics, practice teamwork and play together."

Located north of existing campus buildings and adjacent to former residence hall Goering Hall, the $5.5 million sports complex will include a 2,500-seat stadium, artificial turf football and soccer field, an eight-lane equal-quadrant track, practice fields, an entry plaza and a parking area that will also serve Thresher Gymnasium and Memorial Hall. The complex, designed by Duane Hickerson of PBA Architects in Wichita, is scheduled to be completed by August 2005.

At the beginning of August, Bethel received a $550,000 challenge grant from the J.E. and M.L. Mabee Foundation of Tulsa, Okla. To make the challenge, Bethel must raise an additional $2.1 million by July 14, 2005. A subsequent grant, for $80,000 from the Sunderland Foundation of Overland Park, Kan., will go toward meeting the challenge, which is intended to create incentive for attracting a broad base of donors.

"We are grateful to all the donors who have made this groundbreaking possible," said Sondra Koontz, vice president for advancement. "We trust that, once again, Bethel’s constituents will rise to a challenge and turn a dream into a reality."

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