Story by Zack Bennett
Lander University has officially expanded its Jeff May Sports Complex with the addition of a new field house. The field house was opened with a ribbon cutting ceremony and tours on the afternoon of Wednesday, Nov. 3.
“It’s hard to believe that we can make our beautiful complex any better – but we can, and we’re about to make it better [by opening this exceptional facility],” said Lander University President Richard Cosentino during his remarks prior to cutting the ribbon.
“What really makes this building special to me is that it’s a testament to how Lander overcomes challenges,” he said. Although the COVID-19 pandemic delayed progress numerous times, it was the hard work of Lander Athletic Director Brian Reese, Vice President for Finance and Administration Stacie Bowie, the University’s procurement, finance and physical plant teams, “and countless other people who came together to make this building possible.”
The new field house offers over 17,000 square feet that will house the men’s and women’s lacrosse teams and the wrestling team. The Bearcat wrestling program will benefit from an improved practice area, and the wrestling room is now one of the largest wrestling practice facilities in the entirety of NCAA Division II athletics. Locker room space will be provided for the athletes, and office space will be available for head coaches and athletic staff.
Plans for the field house building, which was formerly a fitness center operated by Self Regional Healthcare, began in 2019, with project design by McMillan Pazdan Smith Architects, electrical engineering by Burdette Engineering, and mechanical engineering by Peritus Engineers. Satchel Construction served as general contractor. Lander’s physical plant crew also “put in many hours to get this building finished and ready to go for our students and coaches,” said Bowie.
“As I look at the crowd today, I am especially pleased to see so many of our student-athletes here,” said Bowie, “because today is really about you. This new field house has Lander’s name on it, but it’s your field house. We built this for you because we want you to have the best experience possible as a Bearcat.”
In addition to the lacrosse and wrestling athletes, the strength and conditioning programs will have a home here as well, serving all 657 of Lander’s student-athletes. Each piece of equipment is brand new and customized with Lander branding and logos.
“This is a grand day for Lander Athletics with the opening of the new field house,” said Reese. “It’s a great addition to our own Jeff May Complex, which is already one of the best facilities in all of NCAA Division II – and probably most of Division I.”
Reese thanked local and state legislators, Lander’s Board of Trustees and Foundation Board, and the University administration for their efforts to push the project to completion, especially during the challenges of the pandemic. “Without your support, this building would have never gotten off the ground.”
The University’s efforts in bringing the field house to life were also supported by many other individuals and organizations, including a generous gift from alumna Kat Finkbeiner ‘71 and her husband, Erwin, which helped fund the equipment for the strength and conditioning room. “[The Finkbeiners’] support for Lander is legendary, and their gift is a game changer for our entire athletic department,” said Reese.
Lander Wrestling Head Coach R.C. LaHaye, who spoke along with head coaches Bob Dachille (women’s lacrosse), Anthony LePore (men’s lacrosse) and Jordan Jacobs (strength and conditioning), said what is most important about the new facility is the opportunities it will provide student-athletes.
“These young people in our programs are going to learn qualities such as integrity, honesty, work ethic, discipline. Those qualities are going to carry them far beyond their time here at Lander, and help accelerate them in the work force and in life,” said LaHaye. “Another quality is gratitude … and we as a staff, as student-athletes, as a program, are extremely thankful for this facility. We’re going to work hard to make the most of it, and to make you proud.”