There’s a room that’s on the main floor of the Lamkin Activity Center, a room that houses nearly all of the equipment used by Northwest Athletics, including all of the team’s uniforms and the washers and dryers used to clean them.
In the fall of 2016, in the middle of drying a load of laundry, a small fire broke out. While no major damage was done, it opened the eyes of administrators to some issues not just in this room, but Lamkin as a whole.
âWe quickly realized that we shouldn’t code. There are significant issues with that, âsaid Northwestern athletic director Andy Peterson. âSo to do that we had to stretch out in the football locker room about 3 feet away. Coach (Rich) Wright was the new head coach – he hadn’t been the head coach for a very long time – he obviously agreed, just realizing that this was the first domino of a lot. , which meant we were going to dig into lower level Lamkin.
That was over four years ago, but maybe just one fire led to a ground floor renovation in Lamkin, which totals nearly $ 1.5 million. Northwest’s board of directors approved a contract to build the locker rooms for the Northwest football program on March 18, including a note stating that the contract was not to exceed the $ 1.5 million mark. As the renovation completion date is July 30, construction will begin in the first weeks of April.
Northwestern football coach Rich Wright has been at the forefront of the fundraising operation, which is about $ 100,000 below the aforementioned goal. However, he is not raising funds for a new facelift to the football locker room. His efforts, and those of everyone else, will go towards more than visitors to Lamkin can see.
âThe real underlying issues are some of Lamkin’s guts,â Wright said. âYou’ve got HVAC issues, plumbing issues over there. We have electrical problems. â¦ It became a fundraising deal, not just – so to speak – to put lipstick on the pig.
Peterson said about two-thirds of donations will go to things most people in the building will never know they’ve changed.
âThe main problems remain the infrastructure,â said Peterson. âI mean, it’s a basement; it was built in 1960. Obviously it has been used a lot since then.
The aim of the project is, in part, to completely renovate the football locker rooms, but this is mainly due to the fact that it makes more sense to start with Lamkin’s overall modification plan. The plumping, said Peterson, begins with the football field. It wouldn’t make sense to fix anything else before fixing the root of the problems, he said.
None of the changes are funded by the University, although some of the issues addressed are not reflected in the Athletics budget. Wright knows it’s not just his soccer players who will benefit from the money he has raised. The people who have donated know it too, although most of them are football program alumni, Wright said.
Most of the donations come from former players, some as recent as 2017, Wright recalled. The farther away the elders, Wright said, the greater the donations.
As a Division II athletics department, Athletics does not have the luxury of brand new facilities, which is why Peterson is embarking on a phased renovation with some of the most important parts.
âIt’s not just football stuff; that’s all in the equipment room. That way, it will all be better cared for and protected, âsaid Peterson. âWe don’t have resources that are bouncing endlessly where we can just go and get what we want. When we receive things, we have to take care of them. “
The renovation is also aimed at providing modern accommodations for football players, as no change has been made to the changing rooms since Peterson attended Northwest as a male basketball player from 2003 to 2008. The only thing that would have changed, he said, was the addition of rugs in the locker rooms in 2006 and maybe a new coat of paint.
âWe took 11 of their lockers out for the laundry room expansion, so they have – on a list of 148 guys – over 40 people sharing lockers,â Peterson said. “It’s not a big deal, but it’s when you’re trying to prevent mold from being a problem on cushions and in lockers with the lack of ventilation.”
âWhen you think of the evolution of technology, we are the electronic campus, but no one can plug in their phone. No one could plug in their laptop. There are very few ports there, “said Wright, who has been in that same locker room since joining Northwest as a graduate assistant in 1995.” There is no direct ventilation; it smells bad there because you have humidity issues.
For Wright and his players, the locker room is not just a place to change before and after competition. About 95% of Northwest soccer players live off campus, Wright said. That, coupled with the fact that most student-athletes aren’t too close to their hometowns, means the locker room is a space Wright hopes to serve as home.
âThe locker room kind of becomes their home during the day,â Wright said. âThey spend time and bond together; in any team sport, this is important. â¦ Being able to provide these guys with a place to interact becomes essential.
Northwestern Football has a joint practice with Sioux Falls on April 16 in Maryville, but Wright said the last day in his space would be April 8.
While this only directly benefits the football team at the moment, the next phase of Project Lamkin is to take care of the training facilities and the weight room, which are used by each student-athlete.
âIt’s just that we have to start somewhere,â Peterson said. “It was the first elephant bite we took.”