Hancock Dedication Ceremony-3

Illinois State's "Redbird Renaissance" campaign in 2006 led to the renovation of Hancock Stadium, shown here on the night of its dedication on Sept. 18, 2013. ISU director of athletics Larry Lyons said a "Legacy of Legends" campaign will begin in the spring with additional facilities projects in mind, including an indoor practice facility.

NORMAL — The 2006 full color brochure "Redbird Renaissance" got the fundraising ball rolling for an Illinois State athletic department campaign that led to the $25 million renovation of Hancock Stadium and a vastly improved baseball stadium at Duffy Bass Field.

ISU director of athletics Larry Lyons believes the time is right to try again with "Legacy of Legends."

Lyons said a similar brochure will be circulated this spring outlining his department's plans to improve the facilities and conditions for Redbird athletes. Atop the wish list is a new indoor practice facility directly north of Horton Field House.

"It's the next big thing we need to continue to provide for our student-athletes," Lyons said. "By actually developing a brochure, we're making it something we could put in front of interested alumni and donors and make ourselves accountable to the plan. We’re going to need some (financial) help. We need some folks to step up and help us."

According to Lyons, it is too early to put a dollar figure on the indoor facility in particular or the entire project, which would include improving ISU's softball stadium, upgrading locker rooms for several sports, building a dedicated space for the Percy Family Hall of Fame, significantly increasing the area devoted to its athletic study center and constructing a larger Redbird Arena ticket area.

The indoor practice facility would be located where the football team's grass practice field currently resides.

While providing an artificial surface for Coach Brock Spack's football team to practice, the facility also would feature an eight-lane, 300-meter indoor track sufficient to host major meets to replace the outdated and worn six-lane, 200-meter oval inside Horton Field House.

Redbird baseball, softball and soccer teams also would use the facility for indoor workouts.

"We need the right kind of surface for athletes to train on," Lyons said. "We would open it up for every sport to train and condition."

Spack calls an indoor facility "a complete game changer." Five of the 10 Missouri Valley Football Conference programs either play indoors or have an indoor training area.

"If you want to change the face of athletics here at Illinois State, build an indoor," said Spack. "Every sport will benefit from it. It would be well worth the investment."

Spack's football team would have the option of practicing indoors on excessively hot, cold or stormy days. But the sixth-year coach said the biggest benefit would come for group winter workouts.

"In the winter, our quarterbacks, receivers, defensive backs and linebackers really don't have a place to do drills on their own," he said. "You've got to have it if you want to advance and give your kids every opportunity to develop in the offseason.

"At Purdue, we did it three times a week all year long, and you wonder why we developed great quarterbacks?"

ISU's Marian Kneer Softball Stadium has been a athletic department target for improvement for years.

"We need an upgrade similar to what baseball has," said Lyons. "We would sink the dugouts, add restrooms to the dugouts, make the seating area not restricted view and have a press box sufficient to host Valley championship events.

"It's a pretty tight footprint, so we would have to be creative in how we did it. We would not change the playing surface."

Lyons believes the success of the Athletics Study Center currently located across the street from Bone Student Center on the second floor of the Military Science Building warrants a larger investment.

"We have 4,000 square feet," Lyons said. "We need at least twice that much."

"Legacy of Legends" will feature endorsements from ISU athletic legends Doug Collins, D.A. Weibring, Linda Herman and Jill Hutchison.

"We don't quite have everything ready to go. We want to get it in front of our coaches," said Lyons. "The president (Larry Dietz) is aware we want to get it in front of the cabinet. We've got some hoops to jump through yet, but we're getting closer."

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Sports Writer

Sports Writer for The Pantagraph.

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