Athletic facilities on campus will receive major upgrades as part of a $23 million proposal approved by the College’s board of trustees. The five-year plan, which includes a new weight room for varsity teams in Chrouser Sports Complex and the completion of a baseball field, is funded by the “Faithfully Forward” capital campaign, which began raising money for the college on July 1, 2021.
Projects are scheduled to begin once the campaign’s $225 million fundraising goal has been nearly or fully reached, which the College hopes to achieve by June 2026.
“To bolster the recruitment of competitive student-athletes and improve access to fitness spaces for all students, faculty and staff, the college will invest in critical, strategic renovations to the Chrouser Sports Complex, McCully Stadium and Pfund Stadium,” Leon Wirth, who directs the campaign in the College’s Advancement Office, said in an email. “These upgrades will also improve access to existing fitness and training spaces for all students, faculty and staff.”
Every four to five years, the College inaugurates a campaign to gather donations for renovations and improvements. The 2016 capital campaign raised $187 million toward the new Armerding Center for Music and the Arts and the Melvin E. Banks Welcome Center. The campaign also included enhancements to the Center for Vocation and Career, the Christ at the Core curriculum, the Wheaton Fund and need-based scholarships.
Along with new athletic facilities, the “Faithfully Forward” campaign includes $54 million towards updating Buswell Memorial Library and $139 million towards financial aid and scholarships. The campaign proposal — with a goal of raising $225 million over five years — was reviewed and approved by the board of trustees in June 2021.
Athletic Director Julie Davis explained how athletic updates became part of the “Faithfully Forward” campaign.
“[The Athletics Department] identified needs, primarily about updating locker rooms, in addition to the athletic training space, equipment room spaces and a new additional weight room space,” said Davis. “We made the case for the need, and then architectural drawings took place from campus planning, and then those were given a cost estimate. Ultimately, approval was given by the senior administrative cabinet and the trustees to be part of the campaign.”
The last time the College renovated Chrouser Sports Complex was in 2000, when $15 million was put toward creating the Chrouser Sports Complex from the previous Centennial Gymnasium building. Additions included an 8,000 square foot weight room, three student recreational gyms, an elevated jogging track, a climbing wall, “smart” classrooms and conference rooms, and a new physiology lab. Renovations to King Arena, the 2,650-seat gymnasium which hosts the College’s basketball and volleyball games, were also included.
The varsity locker rooms, training room, and equipment room, just north of King Arena, have not been renovated since the original gymnasium was built in 1960.
At a town hall chapel on Feb. 4, Phil LoChirco, a junior political science major who plays football and also works in the equipment room in Chrouser, expressed his concerns about the current athletic facilities to President Philip Ryken.
“I think this space is definitely in need of some attention, and that excites me,” LoChirco said in an interview. “I’ve been hearing about [the proposal] for a long time. I just wish something would get done about it.”
Renovations to Chrouser Sports Complex include separate locker rooms for each individual sport, an expansion to the training room and the addition of a second athlete-only weight room. The basketball, volleyball, swimming and wrestling teams will keep their existing locker room spaces.
At McCaulley Stadium, where the track and football field are located, the campaign would renovate the public restrooms, team rooms and press box. Additionally, the campaign would add seating and update pressbox facilities at Lee Pfund Stadium, the baseball diamond in Carol Stream. Previous renovations included the installation of eight new light poles, artificial turf, new dugouts, a suspended cable backstop and wall, and a new scoreboard and irrigation system.
LoChirco is impressed with the current plan, though he hopes some of his specific concerns are addressed.
“That’s more than enough, honestly,” he said. “Long story short, that’s what [athletes] are asking for, specifically the weight room. We need our own weight room. There are way too many athletes.” LoChirco added that a locker room at McCaulley Stadium would be helpful as well.
Davis also has hopes for larger additions to Wheaton’s athletic facilities in a future campaign, such as a fieldhouse, which would hold indoor track and field training facilities for winter months.
“[A fieldhouse] was talked about as part of all this proposal, but when that was combined, it just got fairly expensive,” said Davis. “So it’s just not part of this round, but it might be potentially, Lord willing, part of the next campaign down the road.”
The campaign is currently in its “Leadership Gifts Phase,” a quiet phase of the campaign that builds the core funding by reaching out privately to specific donors who would be most likely to donate a large amount of money. Wirth said that the College hopes to fundraise 60-70% of their $225 million goal during this phase.
In 2024, the College will begin the “Public Phase” of the campaign, and invite the general public to donate funds to meet or exceed the total goal by June 2026. Donors can choose to give money to a specific part of the campaign or to the fund as a whole. Construction will start when the goal has been reached, or close to it.
“It’s going to be a huge benefit to athletics and student recruitment, and the ability to function with the size of rosters we have,” said Davis. “So the department is very grateful that the athletics is part of the campaign.”