CHAMPAIGN — Three indoor athletic facilities at the University of Illinois are on budget and on schedule to be completed this year.
“We’re lucky because we had these projects in the bidding process before COVID-19 hit, and so we haven’t had as much impact as some of the other projects,” said Brett Stillwell, UI senior associate athletic director for capital projects and facilities.
The new $6 million Rex and Alice A. Martin Softball Training Center is a 13,000 square foot addition to the existing softball clubhouse at Eichelberger Field and will include a full infield, as well as batting and pitching cages. Other features include a new recruiting lobby and hall of fame, an expanded player lounge, more storage space and improved parking.
It was the second major gift from the Rex and Alice A. Martin Foundation. The family donated $1 million in 2008 to complete the additions to the softball complex, including the construction of the current clubhouse.
The $8 million Susan and Clint Atkins Baseball Training Center will house a full infield, tunnels, recruiting lounge and a modern entrance to the baseball field. Construction of the 26,000-square-foot facility and softball training center is expected to be completed in June, Stillwell said.
“We’ve almost finished the whole exterior,” he said. “Construction work has started and we will complete it in the spring. Our goal is to be ready by June, which is only a few months away, but a lot of work has already been done and we should be able to meet that date.”
The project was first announced on November 13, 2018.
Winter weather hasn’t slowed down construction.
“The baseball and softball facilities have the same schedule,” Stillwell said. “The softball facility seems to be just a bit behind the baseball facility, but it’s a smaller facility and they should be done at the same time. They put the skin on the outside of the baseball facility and when that was done they put the skin on the outside of the softball facility. Then they put the glass in the baseball complex and now do the same for the softball complex. So every step happens that way. They finish the baseball side and do the same for the softball side.”
The UI has received four naming gifts in the past two years, including funding and support for Demirjian Park for Athletics and Football and the Henry Dale and Betty Smith Football Center.
Clint Atkins was a developer and philanthropist who co-founded the Urbana-based development group, The Atkins Group. He died on April 24, 2011.
The softball center was made possible by a $3 million naming gift from Rex Martin and his daughters, Ashley Martin and Alexis Martin-Klose. The gift honors their late wife and mother, Alice Martin, a University of Illinois alumna who champions women’s rights. The Illinois softball annual team leadership award is named after Alice Martin.
Alice Martin was president and co-founder of the Rex and Alice A. Martin Foundation for 16 years, a charitable foundation headquartered in Elkhart, Ind., that donates to major children’s projects. Alice believed in women’s rights and founded the Women’s Leadership Group at NIBCO, the company owned and operated by the Martin family. She has served on advisory boards at both Indiana University and the University of Notre Dame. Her legacy is one that promotes leadership and the empowerment of women around the world. She has served on more than 30 local, regional and national charitable councils and has been honored many times for her leadership and philanthropy.
“We are incredibly grateful to the Martin family and look forward to ensuring that the lessons Alice loved to learn – leadership, strength and empowerment – live on in our program forever,” U of I Director of Athletics Josh Whitman said in a statement. statement.
The indoor practice facility for the baseball program was made possible by a $3 million naming gift from Susie Atkins, in memory of her late husband, Clint. It was the second major gift from the family, who also donated $2.5 million to the Atkins Tennis Center in 1991.
Work also continues on the $39.8 million renovation of the Ubben Basketball Complex.
“We have a target date for that too, and we plan to have it ‘nearly complete’ by September,” he said. “’Almost complete’ means the teams can occupy and use it while we work on it. It doesn’t mean everything will be complete, but we’ll have a facility that’s usable.”
To date, approximately $28 million has been raised for the renovation of the Ubben Basketball Complex. The facility originally opened in 1998 and is undergoing a facelift that will double the size of the building to 80,000 square feet. Improvements will benefit both the men’s and women’s programs and include a new atrium lobby, areas for receiving recruits, two new half-courses for both women and men, state-of-the-art sports medical facilities, an upgraded strength and conditioning room, study areas, expanded staff offices and modern facilities for students and athletes in new locker rooms and team areas.
$2.5 million support came from former Illinois security guard Steve Lanter, who played in Illinois for Lou Henson in the late 1970s. The locker room, stand-by area and main men’s basketball coaching office will be named after Lanter, the CEO and founder of Lanter Delivery Systems in St. Louis.
“I am impressed and amazed at the support from our donors,” Stillwell said. “Without that, these projects don’t happen. All three buildings have significant donations and we can’t thank those people enough. These facilities are training facilities for our student-athletes who really value them, and it keeps us on track to provide the resources and help the coaching, resulting in great teams and great success.”
Many construction projects have been delayed due to delivery issues and COVID-19 complications, but there have been no major setbacks in athletics projects so far.
“It certainly hasn’t been without headaches or complications because of the COVID, but that will be the case with any project,” Stillwell said. “It wasn’t that much of a problem getting materials here and that’s because we’re working with people who are proactive, and we’ve been able to navigate those issues.”