Recruitment a factor in athletic facility renovations, new additions

The Northwestern State University community will see new and improved sport facilities within the next few years. Renovations and new additions are expected to cost nearly $2 million, according to a press release outlining the possible improvements.

These upgrades will include updates to the track and field complex, including building locker rooms near the complex, updates to current baseball facilities, building a lounge and offices for the tennis team and updating the N-Club Hall of Fame display in Prather Coliseum.

One facility in planning that is not outlined in the press release is a strength and conditioning room, which will be located behind the Athletic Fieldhouse. It is expected to be a 7500 square foot “state of the art” facility, said Greg Burke, NSU athletic director.

These improvements will help student athletes, of course, but they will also facilitate recruitment for each team and the university.

“It’s important for recruiting,” Burke said. “You like to think that it shouldn’t matter whether or not a facility looks good, but that is what young recruits look at.”

One of the more important aspects of recruitment for the athletic department is when local high school football teams, Natchitoches Central and St. Mary’s, play in Harry S. Turpin Stadium on Thursday and Friday nights. Burke mentioned the importance of this because it “brings in people from out of town,” and exposes them to NSU.

Recruitment is not the only reason the facilities are being updated; new facilities also “[make] a difference in the fan experience,” according to Burke. These renovations have cost more than $1 million in upgrades to Turpin Stadium, including a $900,000 scoreboard and $600,000 for new purple seats in the main stands – both of which were funded by private donations or sponsorships.

Private donations are the main form of funding for any building project, especially when one must be made to hire an architect who designs plans to wow potential investors.

Once designs are drawn, Burke and his team reach out to past donors and ask for their help as well.

“If we’re sitting down with someone, [we] usually have a pretty good idea if they have an affinity for [a certain sport],” he said. “In the case of the weight room, it can be anybody.”

Alumni donations make each project possible.

“In the world of Division I sports, facilities have to stay on the front burner,” Burke said, adding that it’s a challenge to raise money for daily needs and for improvements. “We have to work hard to generate enough revenue to pay for our everyday expenses.”

These costs include paying personnel and funding scholarships promised to student athletes upon committing to NSU.

“If you have a plan that’s well laid out, well-illustrated and well-articulated, then you have confidence that there are people out there who love the university enough and want to see athletics be successful,” Burke said. “They will interface with that request and will provide generous donations.”

There is no date set for when these updates will begin or which will break ground first, as Burke and his team are still in the process of finalizing plans.