‘House of peace.’
That’s how Fr. Valerian Odermann equated Tuesday afternoon’s groundbreaking and naming ceremony for a new athletic fieldhouse at Mount Marty College and the institution’s Benedictine values.
Odermann, the college’s chaplain, provided the blessing for the ceremony to kick-start the $15 million, 100,000-square-foot facility that will be named the Ruth Donohoe First Dakota Fieldhouse. Dirt work recently began on the complex that is set to be completed next summer.
"And so, in this place, may we all run the race so as to win, as a people dedicated to community, to hospitality, to awareness of God and to lifelong learning," Odermann told the crowd at Cimpl Arena — the ceremony was moved inside because of the weather.
In addition to First Dakota National Bank of Yankton, the fieldhouse will bear the name of Donohoe, the college’s first lay teacher in the 1930s and a long-time fixture at the institution.
Her family provided a gift of $1.2 million to Mount Marty’s fieldhouse project in honor of Ruth and her husband’s, Francis, passion for the college.
"My dad would’ve loved this," said grandson Mike Donohoe, who was in attendance for Tuesday’s ceremony.
"He wouldn’t have wanted the attention, but he would’ve been proud of the college and the community for coming together like this."
Several members of the Donohoe family traveled to Yankton last November for a funeral and had pledged their financial support for Mount Marty’s fieldhouse project.
"Dad would’ve been really happy to see his mom’s name on this building," Mike said.
"To us, this is the culmination of everything Ruth and (Francis) worked for, and how much they cared about Mount Marty, so we’re happy to be a part of this."
So too is First Dakota National Bank, according to Rob Stephenson, the President and Chief Operating Officer.
"We’re thrilled and certainly really proud to be a part of it, and to be part of all the big things going on at Mount Marty," he said. "It’s fantastic for the college and it’s fantastic for the community."
The fieldhouse will include 74,000 square feet of event space, a 200-meter, eight-lane track, and a 7,500-square-foot weight training and fitness facility that will be open to Mount Marty and Yankton community members through a partnership with GreatLIFE.
Mount Marty administrators and coaches have long expressed a desire for such a facility, which they said will alleviate practice headaches at Cimpl Arena and will allow the athletic department offerings to grow — since the fieldhouse project was made public in February, the college has announced a move to add football.
"To see the dirt being moved means it’s real and it’s going to happen, and we’re going to be able to utilize this facility," athletic director Chris Kassin said.
Mount Marty’s fieldhouse will also benefit the rest of the community, as Yankton mayor Nathan Johnson told the crowd.
The college’s continued enrollment increases has a direct effect on the community, he said
"This has huge potential to bring more events, more people to town," Johnson said after the ceremony.
"It could be a catalyst for more economic development and more sales tax for all the events people could attend."
That connection with the Yankton community was crucial in Mount Marty’s fundraising efforts for the fieldhouse, according to Kassin.
"I think that’s one of the better pieces of this, personally, the idea that everyone will be working together in this facility," he said.
"It’ll provide different relationships in the community."
The fieldhouse will also have a transformative effect on Lancer athletics and its 18 varsity sports, Kassin added.
"I think it’ll take us to the next level," he said.
Mount Marty’s track and field programs will especially benefit from the fieldhouse, because the athletes will not have to travel to Vermillion or Mitchell to use those indoor facilities, according to men’s sprinter Taven McKee.
A fieldhouse will also have immediate recruiting benefits, he added.
"It’s going to be so new too, so I’m sure it’ll pique the interest of a lot of high school kids," McKee said.
Himself a 2001 Mount Marty College graduate, Johnson said he has enjoyed closely following the institution’s push for a fieldhouse.
"As an alum, it’s exciting to be a part of this and to be able to cheer them on," he said.
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