By SEAN BARRON
A few years ago, Allison Ludwig left her home in Dayton to attend Youngstown State University and cited the people, the welcoming atmosphere and the facilities as the main draws.
She couldn’t have known it at the time, but one of YSU’s newest additions would reinforce her feeling that she made the right move at the right time: the Watson and Tressel Training Site.
“I love this facility,” Ludwig, a member of the university’s soccer team, said after Tuesday’s WATTS Donor Recognition celebration in the athletic facility on the north end of campus.
About 100 people attended the 45-minute ceremony to recognize and thank the nearly 350 families, organizations, individuals and others who donated more than $4 million to help build the $11 million indoor practice and athletic facility, which opened last fall.
The state-of-the-art center is named after Jim Tressel, former YSU and Ohio State University head football coach, who coached at YSU from 1986 to 2000 and guided that program to four national championships; his wife, Ellen, a YSU graduate; and Frank and Norma Watson, Tressel’s in-laws.
Offerings include a full-length football field, a 300-meter track, four batting cages, a high-jump pit, two long-jump pits, a training room and several locker rooms. The center is used mainly by the university’s baseball, football, softball, golf, soccer and men’s and women’s track teams.
Ludwig, a junior who’s majoring in middle-school education, said she feels the WATTS center has made her team better, largely by providing improved facilities for game preparations.
Calling the center “a difference maker,” Eric Wolford, YSU’s head football coach, predicted that it will change many people’s lives.
“When a recruit comes to our campus and walks in this facility, there’s a ‘wow’ factor, correct?” he said to applause. “I can assure you of this: The future at YSU looks bright.”
The climate-controlled WATTS center will be an excellent place for athletes to practice year-round and can be used for community events, said YSU President Cynthia E. Anderson, who noted that it also has hosted high-school track meets.
“This facility is in constant use,” she said.
Tressel said he’s grateful to those who made his dream a reality, adding that the facility will positively impact many people for years to come.
Making additional remarks during Tuesday’s gathering were Ron Strollo, YSU’s athletic director; Anthony M. Cafaro Sr., retired president of the Youngstown-based Cafaro Co., one of the country’s leading developers of shopping centers; and R. Scott Evans, vice president for University Advancement.