This fall, GCCC students will enjoy the new athletic facility being constructed just west of Tangeman Fields. More than 50 student athletes already are on campus preparing for this year's football season. These young men, as well as Buster women soccer players, will be the first to use the new venue for conditioning, practice and competitions.

Although the track and field will be used primarily by student athletes, all students will reap benefits from the new facility. The field will provide much-needed space for student intramural activities, in addition to relocating three Division I sports programs onto campus.

Recreational activities like intramural competitions increase our students' involvement and feeling of belonging, which in turn increases our overall retention rate. College freshmen who have just graduated from high school and are on their own for the first time especially need to feel like they belong and have plenty to keep them busy. Homesickness is a significant reason that many students drop out in their first semester of college. With GCCC's athletic field just across the street, it will be convenient for students to attend Broncbuster soccer and football games, as well as track and field events that should increase school pride and students' feelings of inclusion.

Last year, more than 100 GCCC students participated in intramural activities. Volleyball, basketball and dodge ball are just a few of the intramural sports played by GCCC students. In the past, whiffle ball, kickball and flag football were played on the Beth Tedrow Student Center lawn. Ideally, these activities will move to the new field for increased space and frequency.

Successful recruitment and retention of students, higher grade-point averages and greater student satisfaction with the overall college experience are some outcomes expected from student participation in intramurals and other campus recreational activities, such as attending sporting events. Prospective students identify "athletic facilities" as one of 14 variables that influence college selection decisions. When students are considering colleges to attend, athletic facilities (No. 13) even outrank dining facilities (No. 14), according to research conducted for the Center for Facilities Research.

According to the National Intramural-Recreational Sports Association, new and renovated athletic facilities have a positive effect on the entire campus environment. NISRA research shows that student involvement "in recreational sports programs, facilities and services plays a significant role in:

* recruiting new students;

* supporting the learning environment;

* integrating students into the social community of the campus;

* affiliating students with the institution;

* enhancing a number of student educational and developmental outcomes."

The new track and field will be an on-campus destination for prospective students and community members. In addition to athletic competitions and other events, the track will provide a safe, secure place for fitness activities such as walking and jogging. This spring, GCCC implemented a wellness program for our employees, who also may choose to enjoy the walking track during posted hours.

The GCCC multi-sport athletic field will be complete by Aug.16 as scheduled. However, the re-designed and custom-engineered bleachers and press boxes will not be installed by the football season opener on Aug. 24. Reed Seaton, president and CEO of Hellas Construction Inc., has established the final completion date with new bleacher and press box system to be delivered and installed on or before Nov. 1.

The big news is that our student athletes will be practicing on a high-quality regulation track and field when they return to campus in August. GCCC women's soccer games will take place on the new field as planned, with the season opener on Aug. 23. Home regular season contests for Broncbuster football will be at the Buffalo Stadium on the campus of Garden City High School. The season opener against Independence Community College is scheduled for 7 p.m. Aug. 24.

Back the Busters

Enhancements to GCCC's sports facility are funded through GCCC general funds and student tuition and fees. Renovations to the existing outbuildings are being completed by our maintenance crew. When complete, the field will have new rest rooms and a concessions building.

One section of bleachers will have 574 stadium seats, which include 20-inch-wide molded seats with chair-backs. Our "Back the Busters" campaign is underway to offset the cost of these comfortable seats. If you, your business or company are interested in contributing to this initiative, please call the GCCC athletic department at (620) 276-9606. Your tax deductible stadium-style seating contribution can be made to "Back the Busters" for $150 per unit.