Cornell College announces $19.5 million Athletic and Wellness Facilities Campaign

Cornell College is proud to announce the next phase of the Greater > Than Campaign. Fundraising is underway for a $19.5 million expansion and renovation project of the Small Sport Center.

The central lobby will be a gathering space and area for Cornellians and guests to sit, relax, and enjoy the building.
The central lobby will be a gathering space for Cornellians and guests.

Jean Russell ’65, Scott Ririe ’79 and his wife Shelley, and Richard Small ’50 and his wife, honorary alumna Norma Thomas Small, have provided initial leadership gifts to kickstart this Athletic and Wellness Facilities Project. As of March of 2021, donors have contributed more than $15 million, and the college is continuing its fundraising efforts for the remaining amount. 

The Small Sport Center, named after the Small family following their investment in the earlier 1986 addition–which included the six-lane indoor track, four courts for basketball, tennis, and volleyball, and practice space for other activities–will now receive another 21,689-square-foot addition. Renovations will be made to the existing Sport Center and Field House.

“We are grateful to Jean, to Scott and Shelley, and to Richard and Norma for their deep commitment to Cornell College and their transformative gifts,” said President Jonathan Brand. “This project allows us to once again show the world that Cornell College is going places. These gifts not only provide the opportunity to expand our athletics programming but provide a much-needed space for the entire Cornell community to come together in one location to participate in health and wellness activities.”

Construction is slated to begin this spring and the 18-month project is projected to finish in the fall of 2022. Cornell has upgraded all of the outdoor athletic facilities in the past 10 years, but the headquarters are considerably dated. 

The upper level of the fitness area is for the entire campus, while the lower level primarily allows for more advanced workouts. Both floors are visually open to one another, fostering a sense of community.
Both floors of the fitness area are visually open to one another, fostering a sense of community.

Life Trustee and former Rams wrestling conference champion Richard Small put it simply: “Our athletic facilities do not match up to the other schools in the Midwest Conference.”

The project will include:

  • A new wellness and fitness center with updated cardio and weight equipment (This replaces the current Thomas Commons facility.)
  • A new athletic training room for sports medicine and performance
  • New locker room facilities for all student-athletes, visiting teams, and the Cornell community
  • An expanded lobby with gathering spaces for students and visitors
  • New centralized office spaces and a conference room for coaches, staff, and administration
  • Two group exercise rooms for workout classes, training, dance class, and dance practice
  • A concession stand for game day visitors
  • Two new classrooms for block courses, team meetings, and social functions
  • A 20-yard multi-purpose turf area for movement-based exercises

When completed, the renewed Richard and Norma Small Athletic and Wellness Center (with a new nickname of the SAW) will become a vital hub of campus life. It will also support Cornell’s work to recruit new students, enhance athletic programs, and secure competitive events.

“It will be an amazing addition to campus,” Russell said. “I can’t wait to see the new and renovated building filled with students in just a year and a half. This building will become a gathering place for current and future students as the college continues to grow.” 

Rendering of a locker room
Locker rooms are redesigned and expanded, with the additions of a flex locker room to be used in its entirety or partitioned, and a visiting team-community locker room.

More than one-third of students now compete on one or more of Cornell’s 19 NCAA Division III teams. During the 2019-20 academic year, Cornell students participated in intramural activities and well-being programs more than 2,000 times.

In addition to this project, the Greater > Than Campaign has made many campus projects possible. That includes a new science building, a new grass soccer competition field, the restoration of College Hall, and the renovation of Van Metre Field at Ash Park.