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Design Collaborative Helps Bring Football to Indiana Wesleyan University

by: Jack Quigley
Design Collaborative and Weigand Construction recently completed work on a project that brought a new football stadium to Indiana Wesleyan University (IWU). This $15 million facility was part of IWU’s initiative to start a football program. The school has experienced success with most of their athletic teams, so when the possibility arose for the school to add a football team, IWU’s Vice President of Information Technology John Jones and his university colleagues jumped at the opportunity.

“We had been talking about football for a long time and decided that now was the time to make it happen,” Jones said.

Jones and other administrators assembled a plan for a new stadium and requested firms to send in proposals for their visions of a new stadium. Once they determined that Design Collaborative – a firm that has worked with IWU for 28 years – was the right firm for the job, they set goals for what they wanted their new stadium to achieve. Jones said the school wanted to build a facility that establishes a commanding presence on campus, as well as one that gives all spectators in attendance an experience they will not forget.

Starting Fresh
Despite being a smaller school, IWU went into this project with the mindset of wanting to construct a stadium that rivals some of the most recognized facilities in the country.

“We say, ‘What school out there decides to start football then at the same time decides to spend $15 million on a new facility?’” Jones said.

According to Jones, the school knew that in order to establish a successful football program, they needed to invest in state-of-the-art facilities. The new stadium was designed with not only football players and coaches in mind, but also considering the school’s fans and their surrounding community.

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“They didn’t go into creating a football team lightly,” said Matt Elliott, Project Manager for Design Collaborative. “Everything they do is very well though-out. They care about the experience for the students and everybody who is visiting their buildings.”

Hearing Input
With no history of a football program, IWU felt it necessary to work closely with Design Collaborative to create a design that would improve their campus. The school was just beginning to hire football coaching staff as Design Collaborative was starting work on the stadium, which presented a unique challenge to the firm because they did not have an established set of coaches that could give their input to the project. Nevertheless, Elliott said his team worked together with IWU’s administrators, athletic director, president, and dean of students to design a facility that meets the specific needs of IWU football personnel and students.

Elliott said this project was as much about creating a space for the student body as it was about building a top-notch facility for athletes.

“Football is great, but not greater than the whole,” Elliott said.

As IWU started bringing in a coaching staff and hired a head football coach during the design process, Design Collaborative asked those who will use the facility most often what they wanted to see in their stadium. Using suggestions given to them by the head coach, Design Collaborative implemented additional features to their design, such as padded walls and a locker room for the coaches, which IWU hopes will make the facility more appealing to future coaches and recruits.

Design Features
Keeping in mind IWU’s ultimate goal to build a culture around their new football team, Design Collaborative implemented a number of design features that the school hopes will encourage student and fan engagement. The stadium sits on the edge of campus where the surround landscape allowed Design Collaborative to create a unique structure unlike most other facilities.

They decided to slightly sink the stadium into the ground, so that fans watching from the stands are looking down onto the field.

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“You get this feel for this really cool, almost enclosed environment where all this excitement is taking place with the players, cheer teams, and marching bands there,” said Kevin Scully, Principal for Design Collaborative. “It gives a little bit of an element of surprise.”

The 2,500-seat facility that has the capacity for 4,000 people also includes locker rooms, training and workout spaces for student athletes, and excellent quality turf.

“The board really wanted to build something that was unique and would help the recruitment of student athletes to this campus,” Jones said.

Along with the stadium itself, Design Collaborative also designed a park area outside of the facility that gives fans the chance to participate in more activities. This outdoor plaza allows fans to tailgate football games and purchase food from food trucks parked outside, which Jones said has been instrumental in creating the “Saturday afternoon football experience” that the school desired.

Scully and Elliott said for their firm, this stadium project will be especially memorable.

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Scully said, “This is one of those legacy projects that you remember most about your career.”

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