Even though sports are done for the school year thanks to the coronavirus outbreak, improvements to the athletic facilities at Lincoln Trail College continue to progress.
A little more than a year ago, the LTC Foundation donated 11 acres of land west of the baseball diamond to allow for the addition of two soccer fields to house the LTC women's team and the soon-to-debut men's team, as well as a softball diamond to bring the LTC softball team back to campus after utilizing the Robinson City Park as home for many years.
Statesmen Park - which is the name for the entire complex - broke ground last May and hit some snags along the way, which prevented soccer fields from being completed in time to play on during the fall season.
"All the dirt work for the rough grade was completed and the drainage system was installed," LTC President Ryan Gower said. "Where we hit a snag was number one it was a really wet spring, which delayed getting the dirt work done. Then, the water main that supplied the irrigation system to the complex was undersized. That meant we needed to run a new water main to those fields, which resulted in plumbing work and engineering studies that needed to be done."
Despite those delays, Gower anticipates being able to play home matches on their fields this fall, provided no more delays and everything involving the coronavirus has settled down by then.
"It would have been easy to slap down some grass seed and go, but we wanted to do these soccer fields right," Gower said. "The competition field will be sod, so we won't have to wait for grass to grow. We wanted to make them worthy of collegiate play and unfortunately, it took longer than anticipated. But, we envision playing on the field this fall."
Meanwhile, other upgrades have been done to Parker Field - home of LTC baseball - and the surrounding area as part of the renovation project.
"The new bullpen and (12-foot high) fencing has been installed, as well as the new netting and backdrop for the baseball field," Gower said. "The locker rooms and concession stand are under construction and electrical has been run for those new buildings. Also, construction for the press box for the baseball field is set to begin and we have re-graded and re-seeded the entire front field (near the entrance)."
As for the softball diamond, which currently has a tentative completion date of 2022, Gower noted it has always been a long-term goal to get that done.
"It has always been looked at as a future project," Gower said. "The idea when we added the 11 acres was so the college would have the capacity for softball in the future, but it is not in our five-year plan. But, as we continue to make the necessary improvements to baseball and get the soccer fields done, we will then shift our focus to softball."
Those facilities and improvements aren't the only things in the works at LTC, as long-term goals also include an indoor practice/conditioning facility for baseball and softball to use on campus, as well as the planned Crawford County Recreation Center that is slated to be built onto the existing gymnasium and natatorium.
Gower also wanted to note that the funds used to make the upgrades at Statesmen Park have come from the estate of Gladys Jones. Jones had a son that was a talented athlete and another that was very active into the performing arts, so the executor of her estate felt athletics and the performing arts at LTC were worthwhile causes.
Coupled with that, Gower said the new addition to the Performing Arts Center - which will break ground this summer - will be named the Lackey Choral Room in memory of one of Jones' sons.
While the projects have been fully funded to this point, Gower added that anyone that is interested in helping with either or both of these projects can make contributions to the LTC Foundation.