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Naval Academy athletics constructing $20 million Physical Mission Center

By BILL WAGNER | The Capital | Published: July 18, 2018

(Tribune News Service) — Youngsters of all ages spend time on the campus of the Naval Academy each summer attending various camps organized by head coaches of the 33 varsity sports.

Academy leaders are hoping those campers find their way into the Physical Mission Center currently being constructed as an addition to Ricketts Hall.

This new facility will feature 25,000 square feet of interactive exhibit space and will celebrate the storied history of Navy athletics while simultaneously serving as a testament to the academy’s commitment to the physical development of the entire Brigade of Midshipmen.

Naval Academy athletic director Chet Gladchuk said all the displays and technology contained within the Physical Mission Center will educate young men and women about the Naval Academy and the opportunities it presents.

“Ultimately, the theme of the Physical Mission Center is: Who will you become? That is the question that is asked when you come into this facility,” Gladchuk said. “We have something like 10,000 campers on the yard each summer. Hopefully, spending time in the Physical Mission Center will lead some of these kids to say: ‘When I grow up, I want to be a midshipman.’ If that happens, this project has been a success.”

Manhattan Contracting began the Ricketts Hall expansion just over two months ago and the Physical Mission Center is scheduled to open in fall 2019. Gladchuk said the $20 million cost of the project will be covered by donations to the Naval Academy Athletic Association.

The project comes at a time when the NAAA is facing financial issues. Gladchuk has implemented numerous cost-cutting measures aimed at balancing the Naval Academy Athletic Association budget.

Gladchuk has set a goal of identifying $2.5 million in savings while generating $2.5 million in additional revenue. The 17-year athletic director said the current budget concerns are the result of a steady depletion of cash reserves.

Gladchuk said the association’s capital budget and operational budget are separate. Most private donations are earmarked specifically for facility improvements and cannot be siphoned to cover operational expenses.

“It’s not apples and apples. I cannot simply shift funds from the capital budget to the operations budget. In fact, it’s illegal,” Gladchuk said.

Association officials have discussed for more than a decade the idea of expanding Ricketts Hall by constructing an addition above the existing weightlifting room. That is the only portion of the building that does not have a second or third floor.

“As simplistic as it sounds, this all started with the vision that one of the most beautiful opportunities to create a facility was overtop the weight room. That space was calling for something of significance,” Gladchuk said. “Over time, the concept was born about sharing the story regarding the importance of the physical mission of the Naval Academy.”

Ron Terwilliger, Naval Academy Class of 1963, is the primary donor for the Physical Mission Center and the facility will be named in his honor. Terwilliger, an academic All-American who played both basketball and baseball for Navy, was named a Distinguished Graduate of the academy in 2013.

Terwilliger is chairman emeritus of Trammell Crow Residential, the largest developer of multi-family housing in the United States. Gladchuk said Terwilliger has donated more than $20 million to Naval Academy causes.

“Ron is a very devoted and loyal alumnus whose philanthropy has been extraordinary,” Gladchuk said. “Ron has shown an unwavering commitment to his alma mater with the primary thrust being to support the physical mission. Ron feels his experience as an athlete at the Naval Academy helped make him a very competitive and successful businessman.”

A fundraising brochure produced by the Association shows the Physical Mission Center also including a conference room equipped with the latest technology and overlooking the Severn River along with a “Sports Performance and Rehabilitation Center” that will be available to all members of the Brigade of Midshipmen.

“Exploration Hall” will provide visitors with an opportunity to embrace what it means to be a student-athlete at Navy while “Leaders Circle” will feature large, colorful displays of alumni leaders, distinguished graduates, Academic All-Americans and other notable alumni.

Gladchuk said the Physical Mission Center will also include a welcome theater, auditorium and a “Hall of Champions” that highlights the top student-athletes in Navy history.

“This building we are constructing speaks to lessons learned through competition – whether intercollegiate, intramurals or club sports,” Gladchuk said. “Anything the midshipmen do in which they break a sweat results in some type of experience that correlates with the development of leadership.”

Naval Academy Athletic Association leaders considered building a sports hall of fame or recruiting center, but decided instead to focus on the big picture of the academy. Gladchuk noted the declared mission of the Naval Academy is to develop midshipmen morally, mentally and physically.”

“We decided the most important message we could send with this facility was how important the physical component is to the overall mission,” Gladchuk said. “We see potential recruits of any age coming to this center and developing an understanding about the physical mission aspect of the Naval Academy.”

Included in the project are renovations of the existing football locker room and weight room. Varsity football will also benefit from the creation of a nutrition center. Head coach Ken Niumatalolo is vacationing in Hawaii and was unavailable for comment on the improvements planned for the football program as part of the Ricketts Hall expansion project.

Gladchuk pointed out that all 33 varsity sports will be able to utilize the Physical Mission Center for recruiting purposes. All the interactive displays will feature the latest in digital technology and therefore be interchangeable.

“If we have squash recruits visiting one weekend we can transpose the displays to tell the Navy squash story,” he said. “Because of the technology, this facility will remain current up to the minute.”

When the Physical Mission Center is completed, the Naval Academy Athletic Association will immediately give the facility to the United States Navy and it will become government property. That is standard procedure with all capital projects funded by donations to NAAA, Gladchuk said.

“Everything we do, whether it be operating budget or facilities, is completely in support of the Naval Academy,” he said.

Gladchuk estimated that NAAA, in unison with the Naval Academy Foundation, has raised close to $175 million to support capital improvements at the academy during his 17-year tenure. Among the more notable projects has been an $85 million refurbishment of Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium, the $25 million construction of Brigade Sports Complex, $3 million toward the renovation of Halsey Field House and a $7 million overhaul of the Max Bishop Stadium baseball facility.

Vice Admiral Walter E. “Ted” Carter, superintendent of the Naval Academy, is looking forward to the 2019 dedication of the Physical Mission Center and believes it will prove a major enhancement for the institution.

“The new Physical Mission Center addition to Ricketts Hall will be a state of the art athletic facility that centralizes the physical mission of the academy,” Carter said in a statement. “It will be a place where midshipmen, alumni, recruits and families can interact with high quality multimedia displays to better understand the Naval Academy's expect to win mentality while reflecting on the careers and success of former midshipmen athletes.”

“The facility will significantly enhance our overall athletic program and provide us a more competitive edge as we prepare midshipmen for challenging operating environments in the fleet,” Carter added.

Ricketts Hall was once a dormitory that housed all visiting intercollegiate teams and other guests of the Naval Academy. Former athletic director Jack Lengyel renovated the first floor of the building for administrative offices and also oversaw the addition of a weight room, football locker room and the Bellino Hall auditorium.

Gladchuk has overseen a further transformation of Ricketts Hall, which now serves as headquarters for all Navy athletics. A previous renovation project vastly improved the football offices on the third floor.

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