Sports programs on campus are about to receive a big boost. It's not from funding, it's not from a new staff—It's from a brand new athletic facility.
It’s a project that has been several years in the making, and one that has been a absolute must for the athletic staff on campus.
Athletic Director Andrew Hendricks has been working towards building
the new facility since he took over the position from President Kerry Prather. For years, teams have had to go off campus for certain facilities like driving ranges and batting cages. Hendricks wanted to change that.
“We know we’re behind in terms of the conference and non-conference, so we have some plans to try and get that right. It starts with spaces like that one,” Hendricks said. “The baseball players no longer have to go to Powerhouse [baseball club] to hit, the teams don’t necessarily have to borrow space from the high school.”
Prather is excited about the opportunity to expand the athletic facilities on campus, and sees it as a great asset for recruiting students.
“I think one of the things that plays into the enrollment picture is making sure that we continue to resource the athletic piece of student recruitment and retention. And obviously that project will be a step in that direction,” Prather said. But every big project needs funds, and
this time, Franklin College received a donation from an unlikely source—IU Football Coach Tom Allen.
Allen’s father, Tom Allen Sr. graduated from Franklin in the class of ‘61. He created the first weight lifting program at the campus, when strength and conditioning was not on the forefront of most athletes’ minds.
That first weight lifting “facility” was a set of cinder blocks and hay bales. Allen Sr. used them to curl, squat, and bench press. While it had humble beginnings, Allen was able to use it to help his fellow athletes grow as players.
“I remember this boy... he came down in the basement. He was a basketball player. He could almost dunk the ball, and he asked if I would help him get a weight schedule. And so I did. And in two weeks he was dunking the ball,” Allen said.
Hendricks was excited to finally honor Allen, the man who started it all.
“I’m just ecstatic that we have a connection in that way,” Hendricks said. “That [Allen’s weight lifting program] was the start of what became a strength and conditioning program here over the years, and now I think we have a pretty good one.”
Allen wasn’t the only donor to the building. Johnson Memorial Health also pitched in to fund the building.
Prather said Johnson Memorial Health has helped Franklin College for decades. Whether it be giving internships to Franklin College students or providing the campus with an on-staff nurse, the two have had a close knit relationship. The hospital played a big role in making the facility possible with a $1 million commitment, also earning it naming rights.
David Dunkle, class of ‘94, is the president of Johnson Memorial Health. He is on the Board of Trustees and was an integral part in building the new annex. For Dunkle, it’s more than just having JMH’s name on the building.
“Franklin College is such an important part of the Johnson County Community... We want to be the preferred health care provider. And I look at all the people I went to school with here, how many still live in this community... So to me, strengthening the ties just makes sense.”
Dunkle, a former collegiate athlete at Franklin, is a little jealous of the new space, but that’s why he wanted to help—he knew how badly the college needed the facilities.
Even though things have improved since Dunkle’s time on campus, up until recently, players still had to go elsewhere to practice.
Senior soccer player Sydney Pitts sees the new annex as a much needed practice space for her team that is long overdue.
“We don’t have any turf besides outside, so it’ll be nice during our spring preseason to actually be able to do full workouts and stuff and not be cold... Just because we always have to drive 40 minutes off campus to go somewhere [for practice],” Pitts said.
The process of building the annex was not without its challenges. Shipping issues stemming from COVID-19 caused a lot of the equipment to be delayed, and employment issues also did not
“It has been finished but not furnished... They couldn’t get the metal and they can’t find the welders. And if you know anything about weight equipment it is the combination of metals and wielding it together,” Prather said.
Thankfully, the equipment made it to its final destination, and the annex was finally unveiled on Oct. 25.
The two main facilities in the annex are the weight room and the multi-purpose turf room, which can be used for batting cages, soccer or for anything involving turf.
The weight lifting room is proudly named after Allen, an honor he never expected to receive.
“It’s humbling, I don’t think I deserve it, but that’s what they did,” Allen said.
When asked if he could have imagined how successful the program he started would become, he gave a simple answer: “Oh my no, that was as far as it was from my mind.”
Whether he realized it or not, by simply adding some hay bales and cinder blocks to campus, Allen changed Franklin College forever.