As part of its expansion plans, Lenoir-Rhyne College has been busy in recent months with work on the Moretz Sports Complex. This major upgrade of sports facilities was initiated with a gift of $5.1 million by John and Marilyn Moretz, two alumni of the college.
This donation, announced Feb. 6, 2007, is the largest gift to the college in its history. In addition to funds for athletics, the gift also created the Stephen Harris Moretz Scholarship Fund for nursing students.
The college immediately began planning the athletic facility upgrades, which will provide improved facilities for baseball, softball and soccer, as well as the college’s first track and field complex.
The work will be undertaken in phases, according to Neill McGeachy, the college’s athletic director and director of the Piedmont Educational Foundation/Bears Club, the fund-raising organization for the college’s athletic programs.
Dr. Wayne B. Powell, college president, said: “The Moretz Sports Complex will provide state-of-the-art fields for our competitive athletes and wellness facilities for all students. They are a significant part of Lenoir-Rhyne’s expansion to better serve this community.”
Grading has begun for the new soccer complex, as well as the track and field complex. McGeachy explained that the soccer field was originally used for intramural sports and later converted in intercollegiate soccer. It is now being improved by professional grading and laser leveling, which will eliminate low and high spots. A new underground, French-drain system will be installed as well as an irrigation system. Then the field will be resodded. The work is expected to be completed by Aug. 1, when the men’s and women’s soccer teams return to campus for practice.
A state-of-the-art track and field venue will also be constructed. The track, which will circle the soccer field, will be world-class, according to McGeachy. It will consist of eight lanes and will be finished with an Olympic-style synthetic surface. Nearby will be facilities for other field events such as shot put, long jump and pole vault. A retaining wall will be built in the rear and a decorative façade added to the front. The track and field facility should also be ready by Aug. 1. Additional amenities — including public restrooms, permanent bleachers for the soccer field, a storage building and a ticket office — will be constructed in a later phase of the planned work.
The Moretz Sport Complex will provide the college with its first-ever track and field facilities for the recently reinstated teams. Many years ago, a track and field team competed without on-campus facilities. McGeachy, a 1965 graduate of the college, recalled that when he ran track at L-R, the team practiced on a dusty, vacant lot near the football stadium. Jim “Pappy” Hamilton, the coach at that time, drew chalk lanes for the runners. However, the team never competed on campus due to lack of adequate facilities.
As part of the sports facility improvements, the college has already installed the first-ever lights for the softball and baseball fields. The Moretz gift also paid for a new, enhanced scoreboard for the softball field.
To make room for the new soccer field and track and field complex, the college moved the Theta Chi fraternity house on Sunday, Jan. 13. Formerly located at the corner of Eighth Avenue N.E. and Sixth Street N.E., it was moved down Eighth Avenue N.E., to a vacant lot recently purchased by the college. The nearby Pi Kappa Phi fraternity house was demolished. That fraternity will later move into a new “themed housing village,” being planned further down Eighth Avenue N.E.
The current project is being designed by Woolpert LLP of Charlotte. David E. Looper Co. of Hickory will serve as the general contractor for the first phase.
The John and Marilyn Moretz Sports Center, which will eventually include locker rooms, rest rooms, meeting rooms and coaches’ offices, will be built in a later phase of the planned construction. Additional projects, including upgrades to the college’s Shuford Gymnasium, are still in the planning stages.
The improvements to the college’s athletic facilities are an exciting part of Lenoir-Rhyne’s expansion, according to McGeachy. He pointed out that when the Shuford Gymnasium opened its doors 51 years ago, the college only had three varsity sports, all for men: football, basketball and baseball.
The college now has 17 varsity sports for both men and women, with more being planned. For additional information about the college’s planned athletic improvements, contact McGeachy at 828-328-7128 or firstname.lastname@example.org, or go to the college’s athletic Web site, www.lrbears.com.
Established in 1891, Lenoir-Rhyne College is a private, coeducational college located in Hickory, N.C. It is affiliated with the N.C. Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and is open to students from all religious backgrounds.
Undergraduate degrees include bachelor of arts, bachelor of science and bachelor of music education in more than 60 majors and concentrations. Graduate degrees are offered in education, business administration, counselor education and occupational therapy. The college’s Web site is www.lr.edu.