WHEATON – After years of offsite games and practices and struggles with flooding and poor facilities, the St. Francis Spartans soon will have a home stadium to call their own.
The Kuhn Memorial Stadium and Scott Nelson Track, opening Aug. 30, will give student athletes, gym classes and fans an on campus sports venue for the first time since 2009.
St. Francis Athletic Director Dan Hardwick said the impact of the facility will reach beyond the needs of the Spartan sports teams.
“Our marching band is ecstatic, our pep band, cheerleaders, lacrosse players, football, track and field, boys and girls soccer [...] it’s affecting so many families. That’s what makes it special,” he said.
The Spartans previously played at various properties owned by the Wheaton Park District and the College of DuPage. This created transportation, safety and scheduling problems for the schools, according to previous reports by the Wheaton Leader.
Spartan football coach and Major Gift Officer Greg Purnell said while new facilities had been discussed for the last 25 years, a recent community push led by St. Francis alumni and families turned the dream into a reality.
More than 340 families donated to the cause, raising $3 million in 90 days. Ron and Terry Kuhn, alumni of the school, led a major donation team that raised $2 million. The team’s donations included a seven figure gift from the Kuhns and several others who each donated a quarter of a million dollars.
Purnell said “no gift was too big or too small” for the project.
“I think St. Francis here, we’re so much about community and are family-oriented,” Hardwick said. “When you walk into our halls you get the feeling that it’s not just a school thing, it’s a community thing and everyone can be part of it.”
St. Francis President Tom Bednar said teams already have begun to practice on the fields. The project was under budget and completed on time, he said
“It’s a great thing to be able to host events once again here,” Bednar said. “There’s a certain level of hospitality and pride we can offer here you can’t always offer other places.”
Purnell said the new stadium changes things for the school.
“I think it means an awful lot for the athletic department at St. Francis,” Purnell said. “I think, like all our programs at St. Francis, we want [our facilities] to be competitive and I think that this is a step in that direction.”
The Kuhns were also major donors for several other large improvements to the St. Francis campus in recent years, including a new parking lot, theater and new academic wings. Purnell said that the improvements to both the academic and athletic facilities will benefit future generations of Spartans for years to come.
“Families stepped up, both financially and spiritually, to get it done,” said Hardwick. “It really added to the excitement of the whole thing. It’s almost been like a movement. The ‘bring it all back, all back home’ movement.”