EC is considering the purchase of a roughly $3 million athletic dome as part of their ongoing strategic planning discussions, said President Troy VanAken in an interview with The Leader this summer.
During the interview, VanAken revealed that rumors about EC looking into a possible dome are true.
“There's been talk of putting a dome over the top of Langhorst Field,” said VanAken. “I like that idea. We did that at the campus I was at before. It was a big success.”
When VanAken was the president of Thiel College in Greenville, Pennsylvania, a similar dome was constructed and VanAken spoke highly of the benefits that such a dome offered for to the athletic programs at the school.
“It was helpful for soccer, lacrosse and football,” said VanAken. “But I'll tell who it was really helpful for ... baseball and softball. Baseball and softball got out of the gymnasium, they got to be in this big space. It was much closer to modeling the type of field that they were going to perform on, especially when you have those rainy times when you cannot get on your field.”
Bluejays head football coach Ron Planz agrees with VanAken, mentioning that the dome would help his program in a variety of different ways.
“I think it would be tremendous in recruiting,” said Planz about the potential dome. “Because guys want to go places, whether it is academically or athletically, where they think they’re going to be coached well, taught well, they’re gonna learn the most, they’re gonna get better. And I think that would be a way for us to show, you know, ‘this is how we’re gonna get you better’. You’re going to get great practices in.”
“It would allow us, obviously, to practice in the spring in better weather,” added Planz. “We usually go in the morning in the spring, 6 a.m. So, it’s cold and rainy a lot. We might even be able to start earlier [in the spring semester] which allows us to finish sooner which gives us a little bit more time to weight train into the summer.”
The proposed dome would be used during the winter months, with the structure going up upon the conclusion of the fall sports season and being taken down during the spring semester.
VanAken made it clear that the usefulness of the dome would not be limited to purely athletics.
“You walk into this space, it’s 67-feet high. It’s to the sidelines [of the football field]. It almost seems even bigger because it’s domed. You can do all kinds of things. We can have [student festivals] inside there. You can have a whole campus event in there. That’s just really cool,” said VanAken.
Likewise, Planz also spoke about the way a dome would help keep all EC students active.
“I think it would enhance our intramurals. It would give students an opportunity to do things,” said Planz. “It gets a lot the sports out of the gym, so now we can get some basketball intramurals going. Obviously you could do stuff on the fields. You could do soccer, you could do flag football, you could do a lot of different things. I think it’d be great if we could get that done.”
VanAken recognized that a dome would be an alternative to building a new fieldhouse on campus, citing that, ““If you wanted to build a whole new field house, you're talking about a $25 million project. And maybe there's a donor out there who will decide that ‘here's $25 million’, but there's more likelihood that your going to be able to get [funding for a dome].”
The EC strategic plan is still in early stages and it will be years before any plans are completed; however, that did not stop VanAken from showing his excitement about the concept.
“I think that’d be a real shot in the arm for our students and for our athletic department to be able to say, ‘you know what, we are making some progress here,’” said VanAken.