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New training facility goes vertical





In the next couple of weeks, the press box at Fort Hays State University's Lewis Field Stadium won't be visible to vehicles approaching the stadium from the south.

That's just fine with Curtis Hammeke.

That means the walls on a new 50,400-square-foot building just south of the stadium are up, and progress ongoing on the construction of the Schmidt/Bickle Indoor Training Facility.

"The athletes are excited; the coaches are excited," said Hammeke, who could add athletic director to that list, too. "Everyone seeing it is creating a lot of discussion."

Work wasn't as visible following the groundbreaking in June as workers brought in additional dirt to meet flood plain elevation standards.

Having to raise the floor level 2.5 feet to meet those standards slowed the project a couple months, said Dana Cunningham, director of facilities planning at Fort Hays.

The erection of the steel beams have created a buzz lately, though.

"It's good to see some progress," Hammeke said. "It's going vertical."

Marty Kerr, project superintendent with Compton Construction Corp. of Wichita, said installation of the metal panel walls could begin as early as next week.

Limestone will cover several feet from the ground up on the north and east sides to match the limestone wall surrounding the stadium.

Compton is the general contractor for the project, and Kerr said this is the second largest building of its kind he has worked on. The largest is the Sheep, Swine and Goat Building at the Kansas State Fairgrounds in Hutchinson.

"This is going to be a really nice building for them," Kerr said of the structure that will include a 50-yard turf multi-sport practice field, indoor batting cages for baseball and softball, five 70-yard track lanes and pits for long jump, high jump and pole vault, as well as a new weight room and team meeting rooms.

Hammeke played and coached baseball at FHSU in the 1980s and '90s and returned to his alma mater as the Tiger AD in 2004.

said the 450-some athletes who participate in intercollegiate sports at FHSU will benefit from the addition to campus, as well as coaches and future student-athletes.

"It'll have tremendous benefits in recruiting and day-to-day operations," Hammeke said.

Kerr expects the projected date for completion now is in May.

"I heard the next 90 days are supposed to be mild," Kerr said. "That will help."

In between, Kerr can count on lots of people checking out the building's progress.

"There's a lot of curiosity, renewed enthusiasm," Hammeke said. "You just have to go by it more often."

For Hammeke, more often is very often, as in every single day, sometimes more than once.

"Absolutely," he said. "I go by it every day."