UPDATED: Indiana Tech officially breaks ground on new athletic facilities at Donald Ross Golf Club in south Fort Wayne

Indiana Tech leaders and board of trustees members took part in the ceremonial groundbreaking Thursday at the east side of the Donald Ross Golf Club on South Calhoun Street, which the university purchased. Indiana Tech is converting the golf course's back nine holes to the site of its Warrior Park athletics facilities, which include a softball stadium, track-and-field complex and athletics building. (By Kevin Kilbane of News-Sentinel.com)
This site plan shows the softball stadium, multipurpose athletics building and track-and-field complex Indiana Tech plans to build on the former back nine holes of the Donald Ross Golf Club at Calhoun Street and Tillman Road. The university purchased the golf course earlier this year. (Courtesy of Indiana Tech)
Tree clearing already has taken place at the site of Indiana Tech's new Warrior Park athletic facilities, which are scheduled to be completed in spring 2019. Indiana Tech bought the Donald Ross Golf Club in March and is converting the back nine holes into Warrior Park. The front nine holes of the golf course remain open. (By Kevin Kilbane of News-Sentinel.com)
This architectural rendering shows the softball stadium Indiana Tech plans to build in its Warrior Park athletics complex on the former back nine holes of the Donald Ross Golf Club at Calhoun Street and Tillman Road. The university purchased the golf course earlier this year. (Courtesy of Indiana Tech)
This architectural rendering shows the multipurpose athletics building Indiana Tech plans to build in its Warrior Park athletics complex on the former back nine holes of the Donald Ross Golf Club at Calhoun Street and Tillman Road. The university purchased the golf course earlier this year. (Courtesy of Indiana Tech)

Indiana Tech broke ground today on the new Warrior Park athletic facilities the university is constructing on the back nine holes of the Donald Ross Golf Club, 7102 S. Calhoun St., at Calhoun Street and Tillman Road in south Fort Wayne.

“As Fort Wayne goes through economic revitalization, it is important Indiana Tech be part of that,” Karl Einolf, the university’s president, said in remarks at the groundbreaking.

Plans call for construction of a softball stadium, track-and-field complex and multipurpose athletics building on the portion of the course east of Calhoun Street across the street from the clubhouse. Indiana Tech estimates the project will cost about $15 million.

Work already has started with the cutting of trees along the back nine holes. Large earth-moving equipment also was on site and ready to begin work.

The university expects the new athletic facilities to be completed by spring 2019, said Brian Engelhart, Indiana Tech vice president of marketing and communication.

The new facilities will allow Indiana Tech to apply to host national championships here for track, softball and possibly other sports in the future, Einolf said. Indiana Tech athletes compete at the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics level.

The university announced in late October it had signed an option to buy the golf course. It closed on the sale on March 19, Engelhart said.

The front nine holes of the golf course remain operational and open to the public.

The new facilities will include the following, based on a fact sheet provided by the university:

• Softball stadium: The collegiate competition-level stadium will be lighted and have 350 seats, an artificial turf infield and outfield, batting cages and a digital scoreboard.

The stadium will be available for Indiana Tech practices, games, collegiate conference tournaments, and Fort Wayne-area high school and other tournaments.

• Track-and-field complex: The 400-meter, eight-lane track will have a natural grass infield, sites for field events such as discus, shot put and hammer throw, and bleacher seating for 350 people.

The complex will be able to host Indiana Tech practices and meets, collegiate conference and national meets, and community track and field events.

• Multipurpose athletic building: The 25,000-square-foot building will contain space for wrestling home meets and practices; sports medicine, treatment and training rooms; and men’s and women’s home and visitor locker rooms; two team meeting rooms, and a welcome center for Warrior Park visitors.

The building also will contain offices for coaches of softball, track and field, cross country, wrestling and golf, along with athletics administration.

It will take about 12 to 15 minutes to drive the approximately 5 miles to Warrior Park from Indiana Tech’s main campus at 1600 E. Washington Blvd.

A drawing of the site development plan also shows the possible future addition of a baseball stadium and a fieldhouse built onto the multipurpose athletics building, but decisions about those projects likely are at least six or seven years away, Engelhart said.

The fieldhouse would contain an indoor track, he said. The baseball stadium could be built at Warrior Park if the university needs to construct another building on its main campus, where the current baseball stadium is located.

The basketball and volleyball programs will continue using the current gym in Schaefer Center, Engelhart said.

Track Coach Doug Edgar and softball Coach Stephanie Zimny both expressed excitement about the new facilities, which they both said will be capable of hosting the conference and national championships.

“We’ve been nomads for going on 11 years,” Egar said, noting the track team has had to practice at a number of local high schools because Indiana Tech doesn’t have its own track-and-field complex. The team has practiced the past few years at the track of the former Elmhurst High School, which Fort Wayne Community Schools retained ownership of when it sold off the closed high school building.

When the new track is completed, it also will be the first time the team can practice on a collegiate-level track, which has different markings for races than a high school track, Edgar said.

The softball team also has had to use a variety of locations, but in recent years has practiced and played games at Havenhurst Park in New Haven, Zimny said.

The new facilities also will be a big boost for recruiting athletes, she said.

“Once this project came out, I feel my (high school) junior class began locking themselves in,” Zimny said.

The groundbreaking represents the culmination of a long journey for Indiana Tech.

About a year ago, the university proposed constructing the softball stadium, track-and-field complex and athletics building in the Fort Wayne Parks and Recreation Department’s Memorial Park, which is two blocks east of the university’s main campus.

The plan drew heavy opposition from U.S. military veterans and veterans organizations because the park was created as a memorial to Allen County residents who served in World War I and who died during war service or afterward. Indiana Tech later withdrew the development proposal.

The parks department then appointed a task force to study what should be done to improve and enhance the park. That task force is expected this summer to provide its recommendations to the parks department’s board of park commissioners.

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