Sunday, August 30, 2009

RPI scores big with new athletic facility

This originally appeared in The Record.

Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute is heading into the final stretch of the first phase of its $114 million East Campus Athletic Village. I recently had a chance to tour the complex and I’m excited for a bunch of reasons.

First is the scope of the project. How many upstate New York communities would give its proverbial eye teeth for an economic development project of this magnitude? What might this lead to down the road? (Hint: Look no further than SUNY-Cortland, which has attracted the NY Jets summer training camp and Empire State Games, among other events, since opening a new sports complex in 2002.) What might this development mean for existing and local businesses? (Another hint: Check out the RPI-themed new Hilton on Hoosick Street if you haven’t already.) And finally, you have to admire the boldness with which RPI President Shirley Ann Jackson’s administration stuck with the project through a recession.

Second is the impact that this endeavor will have on the RPI community – faculty, staff, student-athletes and alumni. A little more swagger on the field and the court playing in one of the best Division III athletic facilities in the country. A little more inspiration off the field – the strength and conditioning area has an eye-level sweeping view of the stadium turf. There will be more excitement for fans in the stands; the setting is first class and feels more Division 1-AA than Division III. And the expansion will provide more opportunities for intramural participants – which represent nearly three-quarters of the student body. All of this adds up to a lot more “wow” in putting the school’s best foot forward in its recruiting efforts.

Third, this is a great moment for The Record as well. This event allows us an opportunity to present this milestone in a way that only your hometown newspaper can.

We will present several commemorative projects during the fall:

A special section on the new stadium and this year’s football team publishes Sept. 12, the day of the first home game; a broader look at the entire East Campus Athletic Village project will appear in a second commemorative special section in the Oct. 3 issue of The Record, the day of the grand opening and homecoming football game.

Both of those publications will be printed on brighter, heavier newsprint. The Oct. 3 edition will also include a free, two-sided glossy commemorative poster shot by our photography staff. And expect expanded news, sports and photo packages the day after both events.

I want to give a quick shout out to the local business owners who have joined us in celebrating the achievement by helping underwrite the efforts. Look for their ads in each section and tell them “thank you” as well. (The first issue deadlines early this week; please call me Monday at 270-1206 if you’re interested.)

RPI has scored a terrific achievement for the campus community and the entire region. There are a lot of reasons to give pause to celebration and we look forward to the party.

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