Wheeling Jesuit University's community athletic field project received a major financial boost this week, as it was announced the Cardinal Athletic Club will donate $250,000 toward the project.
The project consists of several phases, including the application of new turf at the main and upper fields, resurfacing the running track, upgrades to field lighting, renovations of the existing locker rooms and installation of new locker room, new scoreboards and additional seating at each field. A $2.2 million fundraising effort was recently announced to complete the first two phases of the project.
According to John Reasbeck, president of the Cardinal Athletic Club, the group initially had focused on resurfacing the track. However, after club members spoke with university President Richard Beyer, it was decided to turn attention to helping raise funds for the larger project.
Wheeling Jesuit University and its Cardinal Athletic Club are honoring the late Bernard Schmitt, seventh bishop of the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston, by naming the university’s main athletic field in his memory.
"All of our members agreed this is a tremendous project and something we'd like to be involved in," Reasbeck said.
Over the last year, club representatives stayed in contact with the university on the project, which requires an additional $250,000 before beginning. Reasbeck, who played basketball at WJU in the 1990s and has been involved with the CAC ever since, said the recent addition of more outdoor sports, including rugby and lacrosse, to go along with soccer and track makes the expansion more than worthwhile.
"From an athletic standpoint, to draw students you have to have good facilities," he said. "For a sport like lacrosse, which is meant for fast surfaces, this is a tremendous upgrade."
Additionally, Reasbeck and Beyer said more space and better lighting will benefit the community, as more residents will be able to use the track and students from local middle and high schools can use the facilities.
"The campus sits in such a great geographic area with all of the communities that surround it, and this will help expand on the beautiful atmosphere," Reasbeck said.
"The Community Turf Field Project will have a positive impact on many aspects of our community," Beyer said, noting WJU and Wheeling Central Catholic High School have partnered on the plan to provide Central Catholic football with a new home field for its games.
In addition to providing the financial donation, the CAC stipulated the main field be named in honor of the late Bernard Schmitt, seventh bishop of the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston.
"We also are pleased to support the naming of the field in memory of Bishop Schmitt, a great friend to Wheeling Jesuit and a great shepherd to the people of West Virginia," Reasbeck said.
Those interested in making a contribution to the Community Athletic Fields Project in the name of former Bishop Schmitt can call WJU Athletic Director Danny Sancomb at 304-243-2366 for more information.