CHAMPAIGN — The University of Illinois Division of Intercollegiate Athletics announced that it will break ground on a new state-of-the-art indoor practice facility for the Illinois baseball program, and that a lead naming gift of $3 million has been pledged by Susie Atkins.
The facility, which will go before the University of Illinois Board of Trustees for final approval at its January meeting, will be named the Susan and Clint Atkins Baseball Training Center.
The Susan and Clint Atkins Baseball Training Center will be approximately 26,000 square feet and will include a large training space and an adjoining recruiting lounge. The training space encompasses an entire baseball infield with ceiling-mounted nets for hitting and pitching practice. The complex will be adorned with a new grand entrance for Fighting Illini Baseball. The $8 million facility will connect to the current clubhouse and locker rooms and should be completed by 2021.
"It is hard to put into words what the Atkins family has meant to our entire community," head baseball coach Dan Hartleb said. "I will make sure that during my tenure, every Illinois player who walks through the doors of the Susie and Clint Atkins Baseball Training Center will understand the excellence represented by the name on the building.
"The Susan and Clint Atkins Baseball Training Center will position Illinois Baseball with one of the premier indoor baseball training facilities in college baseball. This facility will give us an around-the-clock training center that will allow our athletes to excel at the highest level. I am confident that this facility will help us to recruit many more top athletes and will help us to push forward with our goal of competing at the national level every year and to win a national championship."
This donation, which makes the Illinois baseball building a reality, is the second major Illinois Athletics facility gift from the Atkins Family. The first was the $2.5 million donation for the Atkins Tennis Center, completed in 1991. The Atkins Tennis Center's creation sparked the beginning of the great national and Big Ten success the Illinois tennis programs enjoy today. One of the first in the country to house both indoor and outdoor courts with locker rooms and a pro shop, the facility was voted one of the most outstanding by the USTA in 1992, shortly after its dedication.
"Thirty years ago my husband, Clint, and I made a donation to the University's Atkins Tennis Center and through the years, Illinois has never forgotten that gift and has been extremely generous with their gratitude," Susie Atkins said. "Josh Whitman and Howard Milton came to me with this opportunity, and I couldn't pass it up. The university benefited us in so many ways and has given the community a wonderful way of life. It not only provides this community with opportunities to educate, but also jobs for a working force. I know my husband would be proud that myself, his children, grandchildren and even great grandchildren are adding to what we started 30 years ago."
The Illinois Office of Athletics Development has secured its third lead naming gift in the past 12 months, providing funding and support for Demirjian Park for track and soccer, the Henry Dale and Betty Smith Football Center and now the Susan and Clint Atkins Baseball Training Center.
The gift counts toward in the $300 million fundraising goal for the Division of Intercollegiate Athletics, which is part of "With Illinois," the recently announced $2.25 billion University-wide fundraising campaign.