(From Northwest Missouri State News Services)
MARYVILLE, Mo. – With the music of the Bearcat Marching Band echoing from corner to corner and an explosion of silver streamers, Northwest Missouri State University on Friday declared its Carl and Cheryl Hughes Fieldhouse was officially open.
“Dreams and realities live right here because of the efforts of so many – so many that have come before us, so many that are right here today and certainly so many of us that will be here in the future,” Northwest President Dr. John Jasinski said during his opening remarks to the crowd filling the facility’s bleachers and about 200 chairs on the track surface.
“This fieldhouse is really not about any individual or program,” Jasinski added. “It is really about community.”
The Hughes Fieldhouse is the single largest public-private partnership in Northwest’s 113‐year history and one of the largest such projects in the region ever. Donors committed nearly $14 million to the project through donations and pledges secured by the Northwest Foundation. Leading support for the project was provided by the Founding 50 – a group of 78 donors contributing $50,000 or more to the project – with the Carl and Cheryl Hughes Family Foundation, the Mel and Valorie Booth Family, the city of Maryville and Nodaway Valley Bank working as “team captains” of the group. The University and students also contributed to the project, while hundreds of alumni and friends made gifts of all sizes.
“Because of the Hughes Fieldhouse, peers, competitors, friends and foes are taking note,” Jasinski said. “They are acknowledging Northwest’s culture, our performance excellence and that we are indeed are the university of choice.
“But we all know this Fieldhouse is not about a steel structure, four walls or a building to add to our portfolio. It is about so much more. The Hughes Fieldhouse represents a vivid set of testimonies. The testimony of student support for our campus master plan and enhancing student life and our vibrant campus. The testimony of community support and involvement. The testimony of our faculty and staff – past and present – who made this a reality. The testimony of donor and partner support and the ability to do meaningful projects to make Northwest differentiated and stand apart from our peers.”
Carl Hughes, a 1976 Northwest graduate and member of the Northwest Foundation Board of Directors, acknowledged the challenges of building momentum for the project. He was an early convert, he recalled during his remarks Friday, and was appointed chair of the Foundation’s Student Life Champions Committee, which was charged with raising money for the facility.
“Early on, it was not easy sledding,” he said. “The words ‘wing and a prayer’ were thrown out a lot about raising money for this thing.”
Eventually – with major support from the Hughes Family Foundation, Booth family and Nodaway Valley Bank as well as the city of Maryville with the help of voters passing a transient guest tax – the vision for the project evolved into reality.
“In that Founding 50, there are small business people, farmers, retired people, alumni, teachers, professors,”Hughes said. “They are people that decided not to take a vacation to be in that group, or not trade a car in, or set some money aside, and that’s what I call the sacrificial kind of giving. They motivate a lot of us. They motivated us to do what we’ve done. I think that’s kind of the gold standard of this school and it tells you a lot about how people feel about this school and what we want to deliver to the kids. I want to thank our family foundation. We created this several years ago to make an impact and make a difference. I kind of think we’ve done that.”
The 137,250 square-foot, $21 million Hughes Fieldhouse is designed to serve a multitude of social, recreational and economic needs for the University and region.
Northwest outlined four goals for the facility: promoting health, wellness and engaged programming for Northwest’s students, faculty and staff as well as the broader community; providing a competitive advantage relative to Northwest’s intercollegiate athletics teams and overall programming; enhancing Northwest’s ability to recruit, retain and engage students; and providing enhanced community partnership opportunities and economic development outcomes.
“I can easily picture soccer tournaments, winter activities, the walking and tradeshows,” Maryville Mayor Rachel Martin said. “There’s a certain electricity around sports in northwest Missouri, and I can feel that energy in this facility. It’s contagious and it’s a goal of our newly formed tourism committee to spread the electricity of Maryville and Northwest Missouri State University to others. We have key community leaders at the table, and we agree the possibilities are endless.”
The facility also is expected to enhance student engagement on the Northwest campus and create more opportunities for intramurals and recreation on campus as well as large University events such as commencement ceremonies, concerts or Career Day. Student organizations and performance groups, such as the Bearcat Marching Band, will use the facility for activities during inclement weather. Bearcat athletics teams are expected benefit from the facility’s 90-yard practice turf and 300-meter indoor competition track.
In addition to its recreational features, the facility was constructed according to modern sustainability standards and includes exhibition space, spectator seating and tiered meeting rooms.
“This massive facility has the ability to change student life from multiple perspectives, including athletics, co-curriculars, academics and so many more opportunities that are just too numerous to mention,” Northwest Student Senate President Alyssa Lincoln said. “This fieldhouse will open doors for students that will create professional, social, academic and extracurricular opportunities that will produce more well-rounded Bearcats. The Campus Master Plan is alive and well and that is proven in the construction of this fieldhouse.”
The Hughes Fieldhouse is expected to bring an additional economic impact of $23.8 million, the equivalent of creating 946 new jobs, to the region. That comes as an addition to the $617.5 million Northwest generates in added regional income.
In addition to Friday’s dedication and ribbon-cutting ceremony, Northwest opened the Hughes Fieldhouse to the public on Saturday morning, in conjunction with tailgate activities. Families were invited into the facility for tours and children played games with Bearcat student-athletes on the field turf.
For more information about the Hughes Fieldhouse, visit www.nwmissouri.edu/HughesFieldhouse/.