Something happened this week that was rather unusual for me.
On Monday, I went to a press conference at Mount Marty College that announced a project to build a new residence hall …
… and all this felt normal.
By that, I mean it didn’t feel like an extraordinary thing for MMC to hold a press event. For the last couple years, I’ve been doing this rather often as the school has announced one new development after another.
There was a time when this was unheard of at the Mount. That was long ago, back in the days when people in general barely noticed that Mount Marty College was here at all.
It’s hard to miss MMC these days; a year from now, it’s going to be impossible. By that point, not only should a new 100,000-square-foot field house be finished but the residence hall unveiled Monday should also be up and occupied.
Things have changed dramatically, wonderfully and impressively at MMC in recent years.
Granted, that comes from the perspective of someone who still vividly remembers what a game-changer it was (literally) when the Activity Center, now called Laddie E. Cimpl Arena, opened in the winter of 1988. At least from an athletic standpoint, it transformed the identity of the school. I remember telling someone that the building made MMC feel “real” to someone like me, a relatively un-invested outsider. The building gave the school an accessible public venue, a face in the community that it had been lacking — a result of having played its home basketball games for years at Yankton College’s Nash Gym and, after YC closed, on any open court that would have them. Cimpl Arena’s recent refurbishing — another good forward step — reinforces its value.
Another big addition was the construction of what was once called the Scholastica Center about 20 years ago. It provided offices, labs and classrooms, as well as what’s now called Benedict’s Cafe. That building, and the court area outside it, gave the school a cozy campus feel that it had never really had before. When I go there even now, I’m struck by how transformative that facility still seems, at least compared to the old days.
But all that pales now compared to what we’ve been seeing in the last couple of years, with each new step forward being ushered in with press conferences and a degree of civic fanfare. There was the establishment of the botanical laboratory and the nursing facility, the announcement of ties with a university in the Czech Republic, the addition of football — a move long rumored and wished for, but one that actually kind of took me by surprise when it happened — and the construction of the field house.
This week’s announcement packed another kind of punch. School officials announced a new capital-type project even while another capital project is still being built. For any institution, educational or otherwise, to do that is pretty bold; for Mount Marty College — at least the MMC that I knew years ago — it’s kind of mind-blowing.
But the school is coming up in the world.
I suspect that MMC officials, confronting a stubborn ceiling in any visions of growth they had, have decided that the best way to take the school to the next level is to be aggressively proactive. Adding football, which is a gamble, figures to bring in more students and more money. The field house will help accommodate that growth and attract even more students. These things (especially football) made housing an potential issue, and the school isn’t waiting for that crunch to force it to make a move.
The results of this approach are taking shape literally every day, and a year from now, Mount Marty’s campus will actually start to seem relatively sprawling.
So, becoming accustomed to MMC press conferences has been quite an adjustment for me, but I’m keeping up. Anymore, it’s almost expected. And I honestly can’t wait to see what the next press conference will be about.
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