UC in Facility Funding Push As Bearcats Football Rolls Up Wins on Field

Sept. 24, 2009

Jefferson Ave. Sports Complex Website

CINCINNATI - Thanks to UC football, Proudly Cincinnati, the $1 billion campaign for the University of Cincinnati, just got a whole a lot sweeter. Following the Bearcats' 3-0 start to the season and ascent to the No. 14 spot in the Associated Press' college football rankings, even more people are feeling the pride of jumping on board with Cincinnati's Championship Bearcats.

One of the priorities of the University is to help raise money to begin construction of a comprehensive outdoor field complex and seasonal indoor venue for UC Athletics, presently being referred to as the Jefferson Avenue Sports Complex. This project, which has an estimated construction cost of $13.5 million, is foremost on the mind of UC Director of Athletics Mike Thomas and head football coach Brian Kelly. To date, more than $7.5 million has been committed from various sources for the complex, which is the major facility improvement component of the Raising the Bar campaign. This drive has developed more than $12.5 million toward improvements for the Bearcats football program since launching in December 2007.

"Everyone is excited about our football program and the energy it has brought to the City", said UC Director of Athletics Mike Thomas. "We hope that as people learn more about this project, they will want to get involved and reward UC's championship performance by helping provide the tools needed to annually compete at the highest level of college athletics."

In order to keep the project on schedule for a September 2010 completion, construction must commence by the end of the calendar year. "The bottom line is that there is precious little time to generate the private support necessary to keep the project on track," Thomas said.

With the construction deadline looming, local entrepreneur and UC athletics benefactor Larry Sheakley, CEO of The Sheakley Group, has issued a $1 million challenge to help in this final fundraising stretch.



Sheakley will match all contributions made to the Jefferson Ave. Sports Complex up to a personal commitment of $1 million.

"Private support is the margin of difference in college athletics today. With everything at stake regarding the practice fields and indoor complex I thought the idea of a matching challenge gave us the best opportunity to extend our base of support which is vital to future success," said Sheakley.

Director of Athletics Mike Thomas adds that "UC Athletics is fortunate to have a friend like Larry and others who have participated in this project to date". Their leadership in this campaign is a great example of how donors can be true difference makers in the lives of student-athletes and an institution."

The University of Cincinnati is one of only two football-playing schools (out of 120) in the NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS), formerly Division I-A, that still uses game day facilities for practice. Additionally, UC is the only BIG EAST Conference football-playing school with the lone exception of South Florida which also does not have an indoor facility.

"It is certainly our plan to be playing into January each and every year," said UC head football coach Brian Kelly. "That means we are going to be playing meaningful games into November and December and we need the right facilities to prepare the team.

"At this stage in the development of our program we are compromising on game preparation and off-season development without suitable practice space and an indoor training facility," Kelly continued. "When the University of Cincinnati accepted the invitation to join the BIG EAST it obligated many student-athletes, coaches, students, alumni, and the Cincinnati community to rise to the challenge of the increased level of competition."

"We need our own lab space for the football program. CCM and DAAP wouldn't be among the country's elite programs without studios and recital halls. We need the same commitment to facilities if we are to entrench UC football as a Top 20 program."

Plans for the complex include two fields, one 100 yards in length and the other being 50 yards. The fields will serve all 18 of UC athletics programs with additional practice space, while the 100-yard field will be the competitive home for women's lacrosse. Current construction plans include seating areas, team meeting space, a press box, concessions, restrooms, and scoreboard.

The complex is also expected to play a vital role in UC recruiting the nation's finest prospective student-athletes. The 100-yard field will also become an indoor practice facility during winter months via an air-supported "bubble" that will be inflated over the field. The bubble will maintain an interior ambient temperature between 50-60 degrees in the cold Cincinnati winter and be in place from late November to late February.

"Proudly Cincinnati is the University's campaign dedicated to helping UC be recognized as the finest urban research university in the country," UC Foundation President Mike Carroll added. "The overall objective of the campaign is to make each facet of the University, including athletics, an international benchmark."

"Our Bearcats football program is attracting national prominence and giving us bragging rights in a big way. Without question they are earning the respect from a wider audience of supporters as they continue to ascend up the national rankings. I hope that the goodwill generated by the football team, and all of our athletics programs translates into finding the funds we need to begin construction of the practice facility which all of our student-athletes have unquestionably earned. We definitely want to keep Raising the Bar in terms of what our teams can deliver and our fans and alumni can enjoy."

To contribute, UC supporters are encouraged to log on to www.UCATS.net and click on the main page icon that features a comprehensive presentation of information regarding the Jefferson Avenue Sports Complex.

If you would like to speak to a member of the UCATS staff directly please call 513-556-4884.