A new expansion project is underway at the Vadalabene Center focused on increasing space for the wrestling team and ramping up recruitment possibilities.
Jason Coomer, director of intercollegiate athletics, said that there haven’t really been any updates since the construction of the wrestling rooms in the late ‘70s but more work is needed to align with other university wrestling programs.
“When you bring potential student-athletes to campus on a recruiting visit, they're looking at your facilities, number one, from the wrestling perspective,” Coomer said. “So, when you look at us compared to what some of our, what we like to call our peer institutions or peer wrestling programs around the country have, we were a little bit outdated.”
Coomer said they are excited about being able to bring the training center up to speed with the schools they compete and recruit against for the best student-athletes.
“It's going to double the space that we have for our wrestling team to train and bring us more in line with those schools that we see in the Mid-American Conference who we compete against throughout the year,” Coomer said. “From a recruiting standpoint, that's what the student-athletes are looking for when they come here on recruiting visits, they want to know what your schedule looks like and how good your facilities are.”
Head Coach Jeremy Spates said the new expansions and having a higher profile because of it will help recruit more students to SIUE even if they decide not to wrestle.
“A lot of kids are looking at wrestling in college and come out on visits. Maybe they decide not to wrestle in college … but they loved the school because they came on a wrestling recruiting visit, so now they're coming to school here,” Spates said.
Spates said the wrestling program, team, parents and alumni are all really excited about the changes and being a part of it.
“It's really going to help [with] the morale and it's funny because our workout space right now or temporary space is up in the mezzanine,” Spates said. “It's not a great wrestling area, it's not bad but they don't even care because they're so excited about getting a new room in a few months.”
Coomer also said in addition to the increased wrestling space, unused racquetball courts will be converted into new academic classrooms for kinesiology students. He said the work should be completed by the end of the year.
“[The] kinesiology space will be done late October, early November and then the wrestling room portion of it will be a December completion,” Coomer said. “The academic space will be moved first and will be brought up to speed. Obviously with classes taking place they need that space from an academic perspective.”
Craig Holan, director of facilities management, said the new expansion is a win-win for sports and academics as well as repurposing underutilized space in the Vadalabene Center.
“The major improvement is obviously to the wrestling program. It's a very good program, but they're really [not in a space that is comparable] with its peers. It was double the size of the wrestling space,” Holan said. “At the same time, kinesiology can get an upgrade of space as well, which will support the academic side. It really takes underutilized space in the Vadalabene Center and it puts it to a much better use for both the wrestling program and for physical therapy.”
Coomer said that the expansion was made possible by long-term fundraising and alumni and donor support.
“We are continuing to fundraise for it,” Coomer said. “We are in the final stretch to secure those funds, from our standpoint there's no concern that we're going to be able to raise those funds. We're in several conversations right now.”
Bruce Capelle, project manager and architect of Facilities Management said Mackey Mitchell Architects have designed the project to take the space from its current 3500 square feet to approximately 6300 square feet.
“The big thing is they’re adding a whole other mat space, another 42-foot by 42-foot wrestling mat,” Capelle said. “In the middle one, they're going to do the spotlight match they do. And it also gives them, even though it's not exactly half or doubling the space, the other remaining space is really for team room and team building.”