BY Senior Sports Reporter
The next step into the future of Blue Hen Athletics is headlined by the building of the brand-new, groundbreaking Whitney Athletic Center. Following nearly two years of construction, the Center was completed in December of 2020 and is now being put to good use as varsity sports are in full swing this semester.
Named after Board of Trustees member Kenneth Whitney, who put $10 million towards the project, the building cost a total of $64 million to construct, with $39 million of that total coming from fundraising efforts.
Upon request, the University declined to comment further on the matter.
The facility is a large investment into not only athletic amenities but academic ones as well. Labs and lounges, along with career and mock interview rooms, combine to make the building multi-purposed for student-athletes.
Women’s soccer Head Coach Mike Barroqueiro points to the facility as an example of the university’s great mixture of academics and athletics.
“I think the blend of the academic prestige of the university and the facilities we have from an athletic standpoint [is] a special product,” Barroqueiro said.
Barroqueiro also noted that the Whitney Athletic Center will serve as an integral part of recruiting efforts across all sports for the Blue Hens, calling it “on par if not better” than any other facilities he has used in his seventeen-year coaching career.
Football Head Coach Danny Rocco also commended the new building for many reasons. Along with “enthusiasm and excitement” from his players, Rocco believes it is important to the growth of the football team.
“[The football program is] certainly looking forward to showcasing it in recruiting,” Rocco said of the building. “I think that’s the next step in the evolution of our program.”
Rocco also expressed gratitude for the new facility, as it gave his team the opportunity for a change of scenery. Along with the unorthodox spring football season, the Whitney Athletic Center gives the football program a breath of fresh air during the ongoing pandemic.
“As we’re dealing with this pandemic, it’s a blessing to be able to walk into a new environment, see a new beginning and have a fresh start,” Rocco said.
However, the importance of health protocols and restrictions has limited the use of the Center thus far. Coach Barroqueiro said that his team has bigger plans for the facility once the pandemic dies down, from “team meetings to team banquets to video sessions.”
Senior men’s lacrosse captain Mark Bieda praised the facility for its new weight room, which has been able to accommodate more athletes (even while socially distanced) than the old weight rooms. He also heard a ton of similar praise from the team’s freshmen members.
“I’ve talked to freshmen on our team who said they saw the blueprints for this building and they were super excited,” Bieda said. “It’s a big drawing point [and] you can bet that when you come here, you’re going to have a good experience as a student athlete.”
The 10,000 square-foot strength and conditioning rooms are only part of the impressive athletic features. Dining areas specifically made for student-athletes and physical therapy spaces are also included in the state-of-the-art building.
The creation of the new Athletic Center was a part of the university’s “Build Our Home” project, which was originally set at $60 million. This included the renovation of Delaware Stadium. According to the university’s Delaware First website, over $840 million of a $750 million fundraising goal was raised.
Also noted on the website is a Presidential Matching Initiative, where the Board of Trustees and President Dennis Assanis lead the university to match any donation between $50,000 and $1 million.
The university will surely look to continue the improvement and upgrading of athletic facilities and resources, as the school continues to compete at a Division 1 level. For now though, the Whitney Athletic Center stands as a sign of the university’s continued commitment and investment to excellence for student-athletes in the classroom and in competition.
“It’s amazing to see the administration care so much about sports,” Bieda said of the university’s efforts. “It’s a reminder every day and [the Whitney Athletic Center] is just such a good tool for us to have.”
“Coming to the Whitney Athletic Center every single day and seeing the greatness of the building, we have to put the working cap on,” senior defensive lineman Frank Burton III said. “Since our facilities are great, we have to be great as well.”