The new event center at IU Kokomo broke ground in May 2019 and remains on track to be completed in time to host the Lady Cougars’ first home volleyball game on campus.
John Sarber, director of physical facilities at IU Kokomo, said having the event center on campus will greatly benefit Cougar athletics. Instead of having to drive downtown to attend games at the Cougar Gym, students will be able to walk over after class or from their apartments at the nearby student housing.
“I think that’ll be somewhere for those kids to go play pickup games in the evening, hang out with their classmates and their friends and just the draw that you can walk to a ballgame on campus,” Sarber said.
IU Kokomo Chancellor Sue Sciame-Giesecke said she was grateful the athletics programs have been able to use Cougar Gym in downtown Kokomo in the meantime, and she anticipated the gym still will be used in the future.
“We so much treasured that gym downtown. If we didn’t have that, I don’t know that we could’ve launched all the sports we’ve launched. And we’ll still keep that gym for intramurals. And sometimes we may have to have games down there because there’s an event in the gym, and we still have a match to have. We know that we’ll need both facilities with as much as we’ve grown,” Sciame-Giesecke said.
The new event center, the chancellor said, will be a big asset for the college, and she believed it also will be great for recruiting in the future. Sarber and Sciame-Giesecke both saw potential for bigger crowds in the new gym.
Besides athletics, the event center will host activities such as dinners, with the ability to seat about 400 people; and it will be equipped with large screens to project movies or PowerPoint presentations. The center also will be able to host concerts, seating around 1,100 people.
With a campaign to raise $3 million to complete the project, about $1.25 million was raised before the COVID-19 pandemic hit. Although the campaign is currently on hold until further notice, Sciame-Giesecke said the school again will ask the public for donations.
“Obviously we’ve stopped raising funds for that during this period because people are hurting, and it’s not the time that you would be asking for funds for a building. But as soon as everything is lifted, we’ll obviously get back to asking folks to help us out,” Sciame-Giesecke said.
The first home volleyball game of the 2020 season is set for late August in the new event center. An official grand opening will follow in early October, said Sciame-Giesecke.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, construction crews have continued to work but were taking extra precautions, according to Sarber. In the approximately 24,000-square foot building, contractors were able to keep more than six-feet apart, he said.
“The contractors were able to keep working. They are able to stay spaced out in the building. At any one time we may have 15 or 20 people working on the building, and it’s a 23- to 24,000-square-foot building. So everybody can kind of stay spread out and continue doing their jobs,” Sarber said.
Workers were asked to begin wearing masks while on the job within the past few weeks, and a hand-washing station was installed on-site for workers to utilize as well.
Sarber said he was glad mostly all local contractors were working on the project.
Although workers have been able to make progress, some materials have been delayed due to certain companies being shut down.
“We have had a couple issues with getting supplies ... There will be things that we will be waiting on to come in in the end to get done, but for the most part, everything’s been moving forward pretty well,” Sarber said.
Currently, contractors were working on the gym area, completing the “high” and “lift” work before the wood floor was put in. The coaches’ and athletic offices have drywall up, and workers were putting together the boiler piping for the heating and cooling in the gym, as well as plumbing. Limestone for the front entry way was delivered two weeks ago, Sarber said, and workers will begin installing it around the front doors.