Donations boost effort to build recreation center

YOUNGSTOWN -- Youngstown State University has more than three-quarters of the $12 million needed to build a student recreation center.
The university has raised $6.5 million in private donations since the university launched a fund-raising effort a year ago. The amount includes one of the largest gifts in the university's history. YSU President David Sweet and the YSU board also have approved $2 million in capital funds for construction.
Among the pledges is a $2 million donation from the John S. and Doris M. Andrews Trust, named after the late Youngstown financier and his wife. John S. Andrews was best known for his leadership with the American Heart Association locally, statewide and on the national level. He died in 1999.
"The support we've received throughout the community for this much-needed project has been tremendous," said Douglas McKay, chief executive officer of The Home Savings & amp; Loan Co.
McKay and Gregory Ridler, former president of Mahoning National Bank, are co-chairmen of the committee raising the funds. Fund-raising efforts were launched by Sweet and the YSU development office, under director Paul McFadden.
"The campaign is a long way from over, but we've had a very strong start," McKay added. "We'll keep at it until all of the funds are raised."
The new facility will be named the John S. and Doris M. Andrews Student Recreation and Wellness Center, Sweet said.
"I can't thank the Andrews Trust enough for its generosity," he said. "Their support will help ensure that recreational facilities for YSU students will be equal to or surpass those at other universities in the region."
Combined with previous pledges, the trust has donated $3.29 million to the university in the past year, the largest cumulative gift ever to YSU.
Students have been pushing for a campus recreation center for about a decade and overwhelmingly supported the idea in a vote of the student body three years ago. Students in April 2000 voted 1,048-217 to allow the university to charge usage fees. The referendum had failed twice before. Some of the university's 12,000 students had argued that they would never use the center.
"Students are hungry for this," said Jeff Parks, YSU Student Government president.
No student fees will be used for construction, university officials said. Students, however, will be charged a mandatory fee to help cover operating costs. All full-time students will pay $40 per semester; part-time students will pay $25.
The university hopes to begin construction in early 2004, and the new facility could be open by 2005, university officials said.
Major financial contributions include a $1 million pledge from the Ward and Florence Simon Beecher Foundation; $750,000 from Anthony and Mary Lariccia; and $500,000 from D.D. and Velma Davis.
Jim Tressel, head football coach at The Ohio State University, and his wife, Ellen, pledged $125,000. Tressel led YSU to four NCAA Division I-AA national football championships during his 15-year career at YSU before going to Ohio State two years ago. Ellen Tressel is a 1975 YSU graduate.
In an effort to recruit students, Kent State University, Slippery Rock University and the University of Akron have recently opened multimillion-dollar recreation centers, YSU officials said.
Cyndy Anderson, vice president for student affairs, said the center -- along with the $22 million University Courtyard apartments now under construction on Wick Oval -- are critical components of YSU's efforts to attract and retain students.
"We have thousands of prospective students visiting campus every year," Anderson said. "Their eyes are sure to light up when they see both of these new facilities."

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