By Cliff Foster
Following an appreciative toast by Metropolitan State University Denver Athletics Director Joan McDermott, President Stephen Jordan, members of the Board of Trustees and others donned hard hats and grabbed shovels to officially break ground June 5 for the MSU’s $12 million Athletic Complex.
“For the greater MSU Denver and Auraria communities, this complex will provide a comfortable place to come together as colleagues and as Roadrunner fans and to cheer our warm-weather teams,” Jordan said.
But Jordan stressed throughout his remarks that the complex, which is taking shape south of the Colfax viaduct adjacent to Shoshone Street, east of I-25, is “about more than MSU Denver and future Roadrunner glory”—a theme echoed by other speakers.
“It’s about creating a park in an urban desert, a place where neighborhood seniors can walk in the morning and where children can safely play sports and develop a love of teamwork and physical fitness,” he said. “From here we can develop relationships with the nearby neighborhoods—La Alma, Lincoln Park, Sun Valley and Val Verde. From here we can develop partnerships with community organizations and rec programs. From here we can inspire kids, who meet our athletes and play on our fields, to see the promise of higher education and aspire to it.”
Rob Cohen, chair of the Board of Trustees, noted that the complex fits into the vision of preeminence for MSU Denver by benefitting students, student-athletes and the community by raising the university’s profile and by promoting more public-private partnerships “that are a foundation of MSU Denver’s role as an urban land-grant institution.”
In keeping with this role, he said, the Athletic Complex will partner with community agencies, including the Denver Parks and Recreation Department citywide tennis program to use the courts in the summer for instruction and camps. Cohen said MSU Denver is in partnership discussions with the Colorado Youth Soccer Association and with Major League Baseball and the Colorado Rockies to host their RBI—Returning Baseball to the Inner-City—program on the baseball field.
“We’re also discussing how the Denver Public School College Readiness Program, which our Center for Urban Education hosted for the first time last year, could take advantage of the complex’s facilities to expand the college experience for the program’s young DPS students,” Cohen said.
The Athletic Complex will be built in phases. Work began in February with environmental clean-up—the site once held various fuel, food and cold-storage facilities—and site preparation. Plans call for eight tennis courts and a fitness trail encircling the 12-acre site scheduled for fall, said John Kietzmann, assistant athletic director for marketing. Next comes fields for soccer, softball and baseball, though the sequence could change.
“It’s a very fluid project,” he said.
Future plans call for locker rooms, a multipurpose room, a concession area and an outdoor plaza.
District 9 Denver City Councilwoman Judy Montero said the groundbreaking reflects “five years of smart planning and cooperation” among all three Auraria Campus institutions and the Auraria Higher Education Center.
“My hope is that this public asset with help to inspire neighborhood people of all ages to pursue a university degree at nearby MSU Denver,” she said. “Here’s to the continued growth of our partnership within the campus community, the neighborhood community and the city of Denver.”
And those neighbors appreciate the partnership.
“Beyond revitalizing this area, the Athletic Complex will bring opportunities to children, to senior citizens,” said Veronica Barela, (’77) president and CEO of NEWSED, a nonprofit organization that supports and promotes economic development, neighborhood revitalization and housing opportunities.
Also helping Jordan, Cohen, Montero and Barela in the ceremonial groundbreaking were other members of the Board of Trustees: Barbara Weiske, executive vice president of administration and chief executive officer of AHEC; Tami Door, president and chief executive officer of the Downtown Denver Partnership, who chairs Auraria’s board; and Saunders Construction Chairman and CEO John Beeble.