Elevating excellence, elevating athletics: $50 million campaign helps department

Zane Clodfelter

With the help of donations through the University of Southern Indiana’s new capital campaign, “Elevating Excellence,” the university’s athletic department hopes that money can be raised to improve already existing sites at the soccer and softball facilities on campus.

USI Athletic Director Jon Mark Hall said the department has preliminary plans to replace the natural grass surface at Strassweg Field with artificial field turf, while also improving seating at USI’s softball complex.

“I think it can help more than just the soccer program,” Hall said. “It gives us more space.”

The athletic department’s plan for facility improvements is a small part of the university’s goal of raising $50 million. The university announced earlier this month that $26 million has already been raised.

Depending on the remaining funds raised, Hall said he hopes to add more updates to the Eagles’ softball complex.

“Ultimately we would like to add batting cages too,” Hall said.

Along with the facility improvements, the university also hopes to raise money to help build up scholarship support for student athletes.

USI Vice President for Finance and Administration Mark Rozewski said the university still needs donors for the athletics projects but agrees with Hall that it should be a priority to fundraise and complete the athletic projects.

“At this point, most of the area high schools have turf fields,” Rozewski said. “It lowers maintenance costs and it’s less expensive.”

Hall meets regularly with coaches asking their input on possible facility improvements, something USI Soccer Head Coach Mat Santoro appreciates.

“(Jon) has been great in working with us,” Santoro said. “He’s open-minded.”

Santoro said the current grass surface at Strassweg Field gets a lot of use from hosting practice and games for both men’s and women’s soccer and also from hosting Santoro’s summer camps operated through the university.

“In our sport, we can tear up the ground,” Santoro said, adding that a new turf at Strassweg Field would greatly help recruiting for his soccer program.

“This campus is already a great selling point for our program,” Santoro said. “This would only help.”

Rozewski said he is optimistic that the university will find donors to help make the plans a reality, but an actual timetable for the actual construction process is still unknown.

“We are optimistic we will get this done,” Rozewski said. “We hope donors will back it up with their goodwill.”