GENOA TWP. — Cleary University officials took another step closer to their vision of a central campus on Thursday with the announcement of a $12 million project that will bring a new residence hall and a sports facility to the campus.
Cleary officials say they are still in the process of completing paperwork with Genoa Township before breaking ground on the facilities, which they plan to have operational by fall 2018.
The dorm will more than double the amount of rooms for students, to over 200. It’s part of Cleary’s master plan for the school, which has been a commuter school for much of its history.
“It’s driven to make sure we can reach our goal of 2,020 students by 2020,” Bennett said. “A large piece of that is a thriving traditional population, which to us is about 450-500 traditional students with 200-plus living on campus.”
The project, of which 75 percent, or $9 million, will go to the residence hall, was approved by the Cleary University board of directors last week. That came after University Housing Solutions, which had worked with Cleary during construction of the first residence hall, made a gift for an undisclosed sum for the project.
“The housing is huge to make sure you have residents’ life, athletic facilities to build campus community and spirit, and also serve as another connection point to the community,” Bennett said. “The community has been very good to us, in our infancy or athletics, whether it be Howell Public Schools or Legacy Sports Center or Howell Parks and Recreation. Having a home doesn’t stop our partnering with them. Having our home means we alleviate some of the demand issues throughout the region. When were not utilizing the facility we can offer up that for the community, too.”
For the Cleary sports program, which re-started six years ago after a 50-year absence, the 4-acre athletic project will be unique in that baseball and softball will use the same diamond on a field that will be all artificial turf, including brown turf for the cutouts on the baseball diamond’s bases.
The only spot of dirt will be on the pitcher’s mound, which will be lowered below ground level and covered for softball games.
The field will also accommodate lacrosse and soccer with temporary fencing for both baseball and softball.
Cleary athletic director Ward Mullens found it hard to contain his excitement.
“I’m excited, man. This is really cool,” he said in a Wednesday conversation. “We’ve been talking about this and moving this project forward for the last 2 1/2-3 years, and when we got word it was coming to fruition, it was like Christmas. For an athletic department in our sixth year of existence, to have something like this on campus. This is not just the heartbeat of Cleary University in Livingston County, but this will be a destination for a lot of other possibilities in the community. Youth events and travel events, and destination events for athletics.”
Besides the turf, the facility will also have lights, making it the first baseball diamond in Livingston County in about 40 years to have lights. It also will have a press box and permanent seating for several hundred fans.
The field, which is unnamed, is part of the expansion of the Cleary athletic department. That includes the school’s statues as an associate member of the NAIA this year, with the aim of becoming a full member in 2018-19.
But, Bennett says, there will be uses for the facility beyond athletics.
“It opens the door for intramurals,” he said. “It opens the door for a venue in the region not only for sports but for concerts.
He added, “I know there’s going to be an economic trickle effect or multiplier. So to have a hand in helping that, that’s what college and universities do in the towns in which they reside. It’s building that campus-college town vibe. I’m excited to see what our student athletes see out there. I’m excited about our students. But the exposure it’s going to give us to attract and retain new students is really to expand our footprint, and that’s what’s exciting.”
Once all the permits are secured, groundbreaking will occur either later this month or in November, Bennett said.