Millikin University has officially broken ground on the new artificial turf playing surface that will be installed at Frank M. Lindsay Field for fall 2014. The groundbreaking ceremony was held Friday, May 16 on Millikin's campus.
The field turf project, funded by donors to the university, is part of Millikin's "Transform MU" capital campaign, and also includes the installation of field lighting and resurfacing the track. Total cost for the field turf project is $1.75 million. Running concurrently with the campaign project will be a separate project to add a new high definition video scoreboard and sound system to the field. It is financed by advertising dollars.
St. Louis-based Byrne & Jones Sports, a division of Byrne & Jones Construction Inc., was selected through a bidding process to work on the project. Construction on the artificial turf is expected to begin in May.
"The installation of artificial turf to the field is a great step forward for Millikin University Athletics," said Millikin University President Dr. Patrick E. White. "The Millikin community is excited about the opportunities that will result from these improvements for all of our student-athletes as well as the larger community. This project furthers the best imagination of who we are as Millikin."
In addition to hosting football games, the newly improved facility will serve as the new home field for the Big Blue soccer teams and will continue to host Millikin track and field events. The field will also serve as a practice facility for Millikin softball and baseball teams during the early portion of the spring season.
The last major upgrade to Millikin's Frank M. Lindsay Field was completed more than 15 years ago. The durability of the new artificial turf surface compared to the current natural grass field will allow games and practices to be held on the same field, and the addition of lights will provide greater flexibility in scheduling games and practices as well as use by intramural athletics.
"This is a special day for Millikin University Athletics," said Millikin Director of Athletics and Recreation Dr. Craig White. "This project not only brings a lot of excitement to Millikin Athletics and its programs, but it will also help with our recruiting efforts. This project will help build new chapters of success."
Donations to the project from alumni and friends of the university have included numerous gifts to name distinctive areas of the new field in honor of two former outstanding MU football coaches and alumni: the late Don Shroyer '50 of Decatur and Carl Poelker '68 of Breese, Ill. As a result, plans are in place to name the blue end zones in honor of Coach Shroyer and the visitors sideline in honor of Coach Poelker.
Shroyer was head coach of the Big Blue football team from 1956 to 1961, which included his team's historic 1961 undefeated season when he was named conference Coach of the Year. He went on to serve as offensive and defensive backfield coach for the NFL's St. Louis Cardinals in 1962. As a Millikin student-athlete, Shroyer had an outstanding career as a Big Blue running back, and was signed by the Chicago Bears before returning to serve MU as head football coach in 1956. Honored in 1970 as a charter member of Millikin's Athletic Hall of Fame, Shroyer was inducted into the Decatur Athletic Council Hall of Fame in 1997.
Poelker, who helped coach the Big Blue football team for 27 years and served as head coach from 1982-95, still holds the record for the most football coaching wins in Millikin's history (88-39-1). Poelker retired in 2012 from McKendree College after 17 years as that school's head coach. He amassed 116 wins at McKendree, where his teams won seven conference championships and made nine appearances at the NAIA championships. As a Millikin student-athlete, Poelker earned all-district honors as a defensive lineman.
President White added, "At Millikin, we know that student growth and development happens through Performance Learning, inside and outside the classroom. This part of the 'Transform MU' campaign shows the University's support for and commitment to Performance Learning in athletics and all aspects of student life. Today we celebrate the great history of Millikin Athletics and prepare for another chapter in Millikin athletic success."
Millikin University will be providing updates on the construction project online at millikin.edu/transformmu
. For more information or to make a donation to the Frank M. Lindsay Field project, visit http://bit.ly/MU-Turf
Frank M. Lindsay Field
Named in memory of long-time Decatur business leader and media owner, and recognizing the support given to Millikin by his family, Frank M. Lindsay Field was dedicated on Oct. 17, 1987.
Gifts from the Lindsay family and from an endowment fund created in 1961 by former members of the defunct Kappa Delta Chi fraternity financed the project. Donations from the classes of 1979 and 1980 assisted in the purchase of a scoreboard, while a new sound system, an improved drainage system and an underground irrigation system were also added.
Frank M. Lindsay Field seats 4,000, including seating for spectators on the west side. Lindsay Field also includes a concession stand and restrooms under the southwest corner of the grandstand.
A press box is located on the west side of the field. Construction of a new press box concluded in spring 2001 and was funded entirely with the gift of $800,000 from the late F. Merrill and the late Margery "Sis" Lindsay.
In the summer of 2001, the press box was used when Millikin hosted the NCAA Division III Track & Field Championships and the USATF Youth Championships. Millikin also hosted the NCAA Division III Outdoor Championships and the USATF Masters Meet in 2003.
Millikin awarded an honorary degree to Frank Lindsay in 1954 and to his son, F. Merrill Lindsay, in 1981, making them one of the only two father-son combinations to be recognized by the University. F. Merrill Lindsay and his wife, Sis, donated a gift of $1 million to Millikin in 1997 for the new running track around the football field. The gift provided the impetus for the track project.
Frank M. Lindsay Field served as the site of the Millikin football program's 500th win. The Big Blue won the program's 500th contest on Nov. 13, 2004, a 45-24 victory over Illinois Wesleyan University.