The 70,000-square-foot Phase II project features an NCAA regulation size 200-meter indoor track; wooden floor courts for various sports; and practice areas for baseball, softball, lacrosse, golf and intramural sports. The space will use an extensive curtaining system so that multiple groups can use the facility simultaneously.
Integrated Architecture designed the project; Rockford Construction Company Inc. will be the project's construction manager.
"When we renovated Phase I of the building, it actually put the athletics side of Aquinas at a disadvantage," said Greg Meyer, associate vice president for advancement at Aquinas.
While the college gained a new basketball and volleyball court, some classroom space and a fitness center with Phase I, it actually lost space for baseball practice and track, he said. Once Phase II is completed, the college can bring back intramural sports and give the JV and other teams a place to practice, according to Meyer.
"It really is a multipurpose building," he said.
Aquinas President Juan Olivarez said the college intends for the facility to be an asset for the entire college community, as well as for the local Catholic schools and others who may want to hold sporting events at the facility.
"It's more than just Aquinas," he said. "We want to share the facility and collaborate with other folks for utilization. It will also help us attract students. ... All facilities serve more than the purpose they're built for. It helps the campus to be attractive."
Oliverez said more and more students ask about athletics and sports facilities as part of their vetting process for choosing a college. Having the Sturrus Center and the track facility allows the college to offer more to prospective students and to keep them engaged while they're at the school, he said.
The new multi-purpose recreation and athletics building shares a concourse with the Phase I renovation and will feature the same exterior materials. However, architects lowered the height of the new building by putting the field 10 feet below the main level of the field house.
"We wanted to be sensitive to the height of the building. This will be the same height as Phase I," said Mike Corby, executive vice president at Integrated Architecture. "At 70,000 square feet, yes, you will see it, but as much as you can, we wanted to make it part of the main facility. It's a big, open space that will get a lot of use."
The entrance to the field house remains the main entrance to both phases of the facility.
Pete Michell, vice president of operations and innovation at Rockford Construction, said the crews hope to kick off construction this fall, wrap up the project next spring and finish up the parking lot in summer 2013. The college will pursue LEED certification for the second phase, he said.
Greg Alksnis, co-owner of Magic Steel, former Aquinas trustee member and co-chair of the fundraising committee for the project, made the lead $1.5 million donation for the facility. The college plans to raise the additional funds for the project from large and mid-sized donors.
"We had to get off the schneid. It had been two years since we finished Phase I, and we just needed a lead donor to get the ball rolling," Alksnis said.
The building will be named for his father, Tony, who's 96.
"My wife and I were impressed with the caliber of the students we have here, and they deserved better," Alksnis said of his reasoning behind the donation.
The expansion of the athletics and recreation facility is the second major facilities project since Olivarez stepped in as president of the college in July 2011. In October, businessman Sam Cummings of CWD Real Estate and his wife, Janene, donated the Brookby Estate to the college, which it will use for administrative and fundraising activities.
Moreover, Peter and Joan Secchia donated $2 million for scholarship funds in honor of the college's 125th anniversary in 2011.
Olivarez said the projects fulfill the college's vision and direction.
"We are trying to look for more connections with the community, making sure people know where Aquinas is going and get people to be a part of that vision," Olivarez said. "We want to create a school that is on a track of excellence that it's been on for a long time. It's a great opportunity for us to be talking about the future and where we need to go for the rest of our legacy. We want to get donors interested in Aquinas' future and want to invest in it, to make it more a part of this community."