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The Future Arrives

A month before the event, State Senator Don White and President Atwater had announced the formal acquisition of approximately thirty-three acres along Indiana’s Wayne Avenue by the Pennsylvania Department of General Services from the Kovalchick Corporation.

Governor Ed Rendell, left, and President Tony Atwater

At February’s celebration, Nathan Kovalchick acknowledged that his family, in addition to selling the land, had made a multimillion-dollar charitable commitment to the complex’s construction. He and his wife, Karen, represented his parents, Joseph and Judith, at the celebration event. Judith Geyer Kovalchick is a 1965 IUP graduate and a 1969 master’s degree recipient.

“My father and I were both born and raised here,” Nathan Kovalchick said. “As we grew up, we saw young people leave for opportunities elsewhere. We’re both proud to be part of this community, and we want to create opportunities here.”

Several weeks later, the IUP Council of Trustees passed a resolution adopting a new name for the facility: the Kovalchick Convention and Athletic Complex.

At the celebration in February, Governor Rendell called attention to the cooperation on many fronts that had moved the project forward. “This has truly been a team effort,” he said, citing especially Senator White, Indiana County Commissioner Rodney Ruddock ’65, M’75, and Indiana Mayor George Hood. “Because of the local effort, it became an easy project to fund,” Rendell said.

Senator Don White

Noting the complex had originally been slated for the university’s South Campus, Rendell said he quickly realized that “the move to the Kovalchick site would result in the maximum economic impact for the town and region.”

He praised the tenacity of local and regional leaders in bringing the project to fruition. “You are all true believers,” he said.

In addition to current commonwealth Executive Branch leaders who attended the February event—the governor and Department of General Services Secretary James Creedon—former Governor Tom Ridge had also been instrumental in the project’s early stages. In 2000, he committed $3 million in state funding for design of the project and pledged a $20-million match to help build the facility.

February’s visit was Governor Rendell’s second to Indiana in connection with the complex. Early in his first administration, he traveled to the IUP campus to announce a $5-million commitment of state funding for property acquisition.

Critical support came from other sources, as well. Through the efforts of Congressman Murtha, $3 million in federal funding was earmarked for complex construction.  Other federal and state legislators who played roles included former U.S. Senator Rick Santorum, Congressman Bill Shuster, and State Representatives Sam Smith (a member of the IUP Council of Trustees), Jeff Pyle ’91, and Dave Reed ’00.

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State and federal funds and agencies are only part of the funding equation. The project represents a financial partnership that also includes not only IUP but also the Indiana County Commissioners and Office of Planning and Development, Indiana Borough, White Township, and the Indiana County Redevelopment Corporation. These entities came together to raise the additional $5 million that was needed in order to purchase the property.

Nathan, left, and Karen Kovalchick with Governor Rendell

Last August, President Atwater formed a university-community IRCC Commission with representation from all these entities. The commission subsequently appointed an IRCC Steering Committee for day-to-day execution of its directives.

The Indiana Initiative campaign, a community and university partnership to promote economic development, has been undertaken to raise the funds necessary to meet the state match. At the time of February’s celebration, nearly $10 million had been raised through charitable gifts and federal funding.

Groundbreaking for the 150,000-square-foot complex is planned for next spring, with occupancy anticipated in 2011. The center will include an arena, athletic department administration offices, and state-of-the-art conferencing capabilities.

Wayne Avenue: The future

Removal of Kovalchick Corporation materials from the site has already begun and will continue in five phases, ending around the time the complex is completed.

One-time economic impact of the center is predicted at $22 million and 125 jobs.  Long-term projections include the infusion of $7.8 million in new spending into the local economy each year.

When the land acquisition agreement was signed in January, Senator White said, “I want to express sincere thanks and appreciation to the Kovalchick family for their willingness to sell property that has been part of their business and family for many years.” A month later, he said the February event represented “a significant chapter in the history of Indiana County and for me personally.”

In characterizing the progress of the facility, President Atwater recalled the words of the late management expert Peter Drucker, who talked about great institutions not waiting for the future, but instead inventing it for themselves.

At the celebration event, County Commissioner Ruddock, a lifelong Indiana resident, said he especially appreciated the “committed group of public and community investors” that had come together to make the project possible. “If you don’t get excited about Indiana today,” he said, “you’ll never get excited.”

The continuing progress of the complex can be tracked at www.iup.edu/kcac.