WMU News

Capital campaign announced for Seelye Athletic Center

July 18, 2000

KALAMAZOO -- Western Michigan University's first comprehensive indoor athletic facility will be named for Kalamazoo business legend Don Seelye, and the University will seek an additional $4.5 million in private gifts to complete funding for the project.

WMU Vice President for Development Bud Bender announced today at a news conference that the 150,000 square-foot building will be named the Donald "J" Seelye Athletic Center. A long-time supporter of the WMU Broncos, Seelye was best known as the head of the Don Seelye Ford Agency, which he founded in Kalamazoo in 1963. He died Dec. 10, 1997.

"Just as Don Seelye was a symbol of success in our community, the Donald J Seelye Athletic Center will be emblematic of the success that our Broncos are committed to achieving," said WMU President Elson S. Floyd, who was unable to attend the event but sent his greetings to the crowd of Bronco supporters attending.

Floyd said the University extends its thanks to Seelye's wife, Jane, and his sons, Michael and Patrick, as well as other members of the Seelye family for their "leadership gifts" to the new facility.

Representing the family, Michael Seelye responded to the announcement by expressing the Seelye's pleasure over the prospect of seeing the project become a reality.

"It is an honor for the Seelye family to partner with Western Michigan on such an ambitious project in memory of Donald J Seelye. It's a great day to be a Seelye and a great day to be a Bronco," he said.

Projected costs for the new facility have been set at $21.5 million, including $16.5 million for construction and the balance for equipment.

Co-chairing the campaign to raise $8 million in private gifts are Michael Seelye and Willard A. "Bill" Brown, a WMU graduate and retired Chicago-area businessman. Brown announced that, thanks in large part to gifts from the Seelye family and businesses, including Don Seelye Ford Inc., a total of $3.5 million has already been raised.

"We are anxious to roll up our sleeves and get the job done," said Brown referring to the campaign to raise the balance of $4.5 million before the end of 2001.

Groundbreaking for the facility is slated for spring 2001, with completion tentatively expected by fall 2002.

The Donald J Seelye Athletic Center will contain a six-lane, 300-meter oval track, surrounding a 70-yard football and soccer practice field. The building will house coaches offices, locker rooms, a weight/exercise room, concessions and seating for 500 spectators. It will also include a "W Club" room and small kitchen for meetings.

Men's and women's track and field teams will use the facility for both practice and indoor competition. Six other teams will use the indoor space extensively for practice: baseball, football, golf, men's and women's soccer, and softball.

Also during the news conference, Kathy Beauregard, director of intercollegiate athletics, outlined the need for the new Seelye Athletic Center.

Said Beauregard, "The University has not built any new practice space in more than 40 years, despite doubling the number of varsity sports teams. Read Fieldhouse, our only indoor practice site, cannot provide the space that 16 varsity teams require.

"Because we have few indoor practice options," Beauregard continued, "Michigan's unpredictable weather often wreaks havoc on the consistent practice schedules our student athletes require to meet their classroom and study needs."

According to Beauregard, Western Michigan is the only NCAA Division I program in the state that does not have an indoor facility large enough to accommodate practice for football, baseball, softball, soccer and golf teams. WMU currently has no facility suitable for indoor track competition and must, therefore, compete on the road throughout the entire indoor season.

"To attract top athletes," said Beauregard, "our Broncos need facilities comparable to those offered by the schools we compete against in Michigan, the Mid-American Conference and the Big Ten."

Several athletic facilities at WMU have been renovated or expanded in recent years, including the 1998 addition of the Bill Brown Alumni Football Center to Waldo Stadium and an overhaul of Read Fieldhouse, completed in 1994. The Seelye Athletic Center, however, will be the first completely new building for athletics since the 1974 completion of Lawson Ice Arena.

Don Seelye, for whom the new facility will be named, received the Purple Heart for injuries received during service in the U.S. Marine Corps at the battle of Iwo Jima in World War II. Seelye was an outstanding athlete in high school before entering the Marines. His war injuries denied him the opportunity to compete in sports to the extent he would have enjoyed. Instead, he showed his passion for competitive sports through years of loyal support for WMU's Broncos.

He founded Don Seelye Ford and the Seelye Automotive Group, from which he retired as chairman of the board in 1990. He was also active in a number of civic and sporting organizations, including Ducks Unlimited, and was a member of board of Comerica Bank.

Media contact: Thom Myers, 616 387-8400, thomas.myers@wmich.edu

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