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Kovalchick Convention and Athletic Complex Groundbreaking, November 13, 2008

The following is text of the address President Tony Atwater gave at the groundbreaking ceremony of the Kovalchick Convention and Athletic Complex, November 13, 2008.

The KCAC has been a long time coming. Like a ship that has been at sea for many months, it has now come into port. And, the KCAC will be ready to take us to new territories of economic and cultural development and, indeed, to new heights.

Good morning, and welcome to today’s groundbreaking ceremony. A new day is dawning in Indiana County, and the symbol of that new day is the KCAC, the Kovalchick Convention and Athletic Complex. While some view the KCAC as just another university building for supporting major events at IUP, others see the project’s true significance and import. They understand that the KCAC’s significance and import run wide and deep. For it is the KCAC that will be the engine, the missing link, and the catalyst for economic and cultural revitalization in the Indiana region and beyond.

“How so?” some might ask. History tells us that the Indiana region was once among the major producers of bituminous coal in the United States during the first half of the twentieth century. When the coal industry declined in the late twentieth century, the Indiana region was challenged to reinvent its economic character and future. Indiana has taken on that challenge for decades, and it has been an “uphill climb.” To Indiana’s benefit, it has established anchor businesses to sustain the region’s economic viability.  These staples include companies and organizations such as our financial institutions, Indiana Regional Medical Center, IUP, coal companies, Diamond Drug, and a host of allied health companies.

Indeed, Indiana has fought the good fight of sustaining and maintaining its economic viability, despite continuing challenges of unemployment and instability in the region’s population and labor force. Now, it is time for Indiana to advance economically and culturally. Indiana needs to be lifted up to a level of commercial and economic resilience not seen since earlier decades when “coal was king.” That lift is coming, and it is the Kovalchick Convention and Athletic Complex.

The KCAC is the product of the collective vision, hope, willpower, and determination of many people…..too many to mention on this momentous occasion. However, I wish to give special recognition to a number of individuals and organizations that have played key roles in the KCAC’s development.

First, I wish to thank Mr. Joseph Kovalchick and the Kovalchick family for their indispensable support and generosity in helping us to realize this important goal. I want to acknowledge the valuable and conscientious efforts of Senator Don White and Congressman John Murtha over many years in advancing the KCAC initiative.

Before I assumed the role of IUP president, progress in shaping and advancing the KCAC came from earlier IUP presidents and administrators. I wish to acknowledge the important contributions of former IUP President Larry Pettit and former Interim President Diane Reinhard.

This groundbreaking ceremony would not be taking place were it not for the continuing and concerted efforts of such special people as Governor Ed Rendell, Secretary James Creeden of the Pennsylvania Department of General Services, State Representative David Reed, and Indiana County Commissioner Rod Ruddock.

I wish to give special recognition to the municipal leaders who contributed to the land sale and acquisition of the property on which the KCAC will rise.  These include the Indiana County Commissioners, the Indiana Borough Council, the White Township supervisors, and the Indiana County Development Corporation.

I also acknowledge the significant and vital contributions of the members of the Foundation for IUP Board of Directors and the IUP Council of Trustees. Also, I recognize the important support and counsel of the KCAC Commission and Steering Committee members, as well as the Indiana County Chamber of Commerce.

In concluding, we have gathered today to celebrate another major step in securing a promising future for the Indiana region and for promoting the economic vitality of Western Pennsylvania. Let there be no doubt that the KCAC is more than just another university capital project. As noted earlier, the KCAC indeed is the “catalyst” for launching a renaissance in the Indiana region. 

IUP is very proud to be playing a leadership role in the realization of the KCAC. We assume this role as a “servant-leader” to promote a brighter future for our community and for the commonwealth.  It is extraordinary and unique for a university to direct and support the development of a major convention center. Typically, such efforts are undertaken by municipal governments, regional development authorities, and chambers of commerce…not by public universities. 

We are on the cusp of tremendously positive developments for our region as a result of the KCAC. However, there is much work ahead of us as we undertake construction and full financing of this exciting capital project. IUP will need help from many sectors to complete this important initiative and to complete it in good order. Let this groundbreaking ceremony also symbolize the resolve of our community (public, private, and social sectors) to assist IUP in the role of the region’s steward and ambassador in getting this job done. Truly, we will all be beneficiaries of the long-term, positive impact of the KCAC.

Earlier, I stated that Indiana needs a lift…to be lifted up to a new level of economic, cultural, and commercial resilience. The thought reminds me of one of my favorite songs of the 1980s, made popular by the legendary Joe Cocker. Many of you, I’m sure, remember it. The song is entitled “Up Where We Belong.” Indiana needs to be “lifted up” where it belongs. I believe that the KCAC is a vehicle for achieving this end. Our region deserves a future of promise and economic vitality…even in the face of the nation’s credit crisis and other challenges.

The KCAC is now in sight, and we look forward to construction getting underway in the early spring. To borrow from the lyrics of the song,”the road is long, there are mountains in our way, but we climb a step every day.” Indiana is now ready to be lifted up where we belong…”where the eagles cry on a mountain high…far from the world we know, up where the clear winds blow.” Are we ready? Absolutely! Let’s make it happen!

Thanks for helping IUP finish this job for the benefit of our community and for the benefit of generations to come. Thanks for your attendance this morning.


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