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Doane To Dedicate, Celebrate New Recreation and Athletic Center

For more than a year, Doane College and the Crete community have watched the new George and Sally Haddix Recreation and Athletic Center rise on the former practice football fields on the east side of the Crete campus.

A 63,000 square-foot structure slowly emerged, encompassing a performance gymnasium, fitness center, office space, training facilities, classrooms and more.

Athletic programs awaited its space to ease overcrowding.

Crete community members looked forward to sharing athletic spaces and the spacious new fitness center.

On Sept. 30 and Oct. 1, Doane will dedicate the new $13 million center - the largest construction project and one of the most anticipated buildings in the college's 138-year history.

The two-day celebration begins with a ribbon cutting on the Crete campus Thursday, Sept. 30. The public is invited to the on-site ceremony, which begins at 12:30 p.m., and includes remarks from Doane president Jonathan M. Brand, current students, the Crete Public Schools Superintendent and the major benefactors who made this building possible, including George Haddix and Rick and Wanda Gibson.

The celebration continues at an Omaha ceremony Oct. 1 at 6:30 p.m., at Embassy Suites, where the college will officially dedicate the building and honor the Haddix and Gibson families, who are longtime Omaha-area residents.

The dedication is part of the annual Doane Society gala, which this year fittingly features keynote speaker Frank Deford, an award-winning sports journalist, author and NPR commentator. (The gala honors donors who make exceptional financial gifts to the college each year. This year's keynote is sponsored by CSG Systems, Omaha, NE and Agro National Inc.)  

For more information on the dedication and celebration or to make a reservation, contact Doane's Advancement Office at 1.800.333.6263, ext. 8258.

The George and Sally Haddix Recreation and Athletic Center

The new Haddix center will open and host its first athletic competitions sometime in October. Fans and students will notice the performance gymnasium with its wall of windows and seating for 1,200, its two-level fitness center, and the Hall of Fame room with its soaring 30-foot ceiling.

But maybe no amenity will be more appreciated than space.

Fuhrer Field House - the current home of Doane sports and recreation activities - was built 40 years ago before Title IX and the growth of athletics filled it beyond capacity. The athletic programs shared Fuhrer like a large family in a one-bathroom house on school picture day.

Starter guns interrupting basketball practice.

Basketballs rolling into volleyball practice courts.

Assistant coaches elbow-to-elbow in makeshift quarters.

The opening of the Haddix Center brings much-needed breathing room and an end to a daily rotation of athletic practices that sometimes lasted until midnight.

Coaches and players appreciate the details of the building, which they helped design.

Spacious locker rooms for home teams, visiting teams and officials.

Locker rooms that finally have a game clock.

New outdoor tennis courts.

A fitness center that complements strength training programs.

Classrooms and labs and privacy that combine for a great learning environment.

A wing of offices that includes space for assistant coaches.

Designers of the building - built by Hawkins Construction of Omaha - included details with the public in mind, too.

Like the flat-screen television in the lobby so the concession line doesn't make fans miss the game, or the spacious women's restrooms (eight sinks; 15 stalls), which cuts down line time as well.

The beauty of the landscaping and the building's setting surrounded by trees.

Numerous donors made the project possible, but two were key in its completion.

The center is named after George and the late Sally Haddix of Ralston, who contributed a $5 million challenge gift to jumpstart fundraising for the project in 2005/2006, followed by an additional $2 million to the project.  George spent two years at Doane before completing degrees at other institutions, but maintained a connection to the campus.  The building's Hall-of-Fame room bears the name of Richard and Wanda Gibson, honoring their $2.5 million contribution to the project.  Richard played football and ran track on the Crete campus in the 1950s and became a Doane Tiger for life. 

The Haddix center is part of massive recent construction projects at the Crete campus -- the latest of five new structures in three years. In 2007, a new education and art building and a softball and baseball complex opened doors. In 2009, students returned to a historic Doane residence hall made like new. The start of the 2010-11 academic year brought not only the new Haddix Center but also a $4.8 million upgrade to a women's residence hall.

Construction will continue with Doane's Sports Facilities Project, which includes the planned expansion and renovation of the existing Fuhrer Field House and the replacement of FieldTurf on Simon Field.

The new center has contributed to Doane's record student enrollment each of the past two years. In August, Doane welcomed 1,049 students to campus - an additional 80 students over the previous year.

"We are delighted to have the Haddix Center," said Doane President Jonathan Brand.  "Our students are very committed to general fitness and athletics, and the new Haddix Center will significantly increase their opportunities to participate in group sports and engage in vigorous exercise on a regular basis.  The Haddix Center will also serve as another important community facility-advancing a common interest that Doane and the City of Crete share in recreation and athletics."