By: Jay Kidwell
When Tim Van Alstine was appointed Director of Athletics in the summer of 2001, then Western Illinois University President Don Spencer and Vice President Larry Mortier encouraged Western Illinois Athletics Director Dr. Tim Van Alstine to make athletic facility improvements a top priority. The result, Van Alstine initiated the Target: Western Forward facilities initiative, and what followed changed the landscape of Leatherneck Athletics.
Since 2001, there has been more than $13 million in athletic facility improvements. These facility improvements not only benefitted the more than 400 current student-athletes, but the thousands of Leathernecks that have already graduated and those yet to attend Western Illinois University. Van Alstine's philosophy is to provide the resources necessary for every student-athlete to win a championship ring and earn a diploma, the best Division I experience possible.
"Student-athletes, as all students do, want to be proud of their institution and their campus. As computers, laboratories, libraries, residence halls, and dining facilities are essential to the successful academic and social environment on campus, the facilities where student-athletes practice and compete dramatically affects their academic, athletic and social outcomes. It's no secret that better facilities impact the wins and losses," said Van Alstine.
In the last three years alone, a sample of completed projects includes:
- MatrixTurf installation at Hanson Field - benefitting not only the Football program, but essentially all 20 sport programs. University organizations such as the Marching Leathernecks, recreation sports, and intramurals, along with area high schools that have decided to play football games at the stadium due to the turf, makes the turf installation a benefit for all.
- As part of the MatrixTurf installation, the throwing area on the north end of Hanson Field was renovated benefitting the Men's and Women's Track and Field programs.
- Basketball practice facility court at Brophy Hall. With limited space and time inside Western Hall, a new game-quality practice court frees up practice time for both the men and women's team and subsequently other programs that use Western Hall (track/field, baseball, softball, volleyball, etc.).
- New weights for the strength and conditioning room. An upgrade to the weights and equipment for the strength and conditioning area benefits every student-athlete.
- Academic Services Office renovation. All 400-plus student-athletes now benefit from an office setting and study area for the Academic Services Department.
- Windscreen installation at John MacKenzie Alumni Field (Men's/Women's Soccer). The beautification of John MacKenzie Alumni Field by adding purple windscreens along two of the facility sides improves the aesthetics.
- Building a Women's Soccer locker room in Brophy Hall. This provides the program a private dressing area near the field and team gathering area, and is equal to the Men's Soccer locker room, which continues the commitment to a gender neutral athletics environment.
Western Illinois University is diligent and prudent in monitoring the facility improvements of benchmark institutions in the Summit League and Missouri Valley Football Conference. The top priorities for future projects of the Athletics Department Target: Western Forward Facilities Initiative include:
- The west side of Hanson Field, press box, seating, offices, meeting and classroom/academic space, video scoreboard.
- Men's and Women's Soccer press box, team benches, permanent seating, lights.
- Baseball locker room/clubhouse building at Boyer Stadium.
- Women's staff locker room in Western Hall.
- Ticket office relocation in Western Hall (more customer friendly service location.
- Athletic training room upgrades and renovations.
"Intercollegiate athletics, especially at the Division level, is most certainly a facility-driven enterprise. Despite recent progress, our work is not yet finished," said Van Alstine. "The recruitment of the very best student-athletes is critical. Prospective student-athletes are very impressionable and these impressions are fostered by the quality of an institution's facilities. High quality facilities reflect a positive image and indicate a commitment to competitive success. We must always keep a clear eye on the well-being of our student-athletes, and their well-being includes high quality facilities."
For more information on how to make a financial gift or to join the Leatherneck Club, call the Athletics Department at (309) 298-1190.