Saturday’s rainy weather did not take into account Pittsburg State football coach Tim Beck’s plans to hold a scrimmage.
So he pivoted, indoors, for the first time, holding the scrimmage in the Gorillas’ brand-new, 150,000-square foot Robert W. Plaster Center, which houses a 100-yard turf football field.
“It’s really not supposed to be open yet,” Beck said. “The ribbon-cutting is Tuesday, but we wouldn’t have been able to scrimmage without using it … we feel very, very blessed.”
With spring practices wrapping up for Kansas’ small colleges – Pittsburg State’s spring game is next Saturday – the unveiling of the new athletic facility, which was built for around $14 million, was a watershed moment.
In it, there’s also an 11,000-square foot weight room (Alabama’s is 13,000), the football locker room, athletic offices and a 300-meter indoor track that will host the NCAA Division II indoor track and field championship in 2016 and 2018, and the NJCAA indoor track and field championships in 2017 and 2019.
The space can also be used for conventions.
“I don’t know anybody on our level that has something like this, and I’m not sure a lot of Division I schools have something like this,” said Pittsburg State associate athletic director for facilities Tom Myers. “Anything we can do in there, we’re going to do, which includes boat shows, RV shows, conventions, trade shows … any kind of event that requires that type of space, we can facilitate.
“Having this facility is going to be advantageous in so many ways, and it’s going to have an increasing economic impact on our community. I think it shows off the great relationship between the city, the county and the university and the support they give each other.”
The football locker room has a unique twist – in it, the lockers of Pittsburg State Hall of Famers Ronnie West and Ronald Moore have been recreated to look exactly as they did when the two played for the Gorillas.
Pittsburg State went 11-2 last season, won the MIAA title and advanced to the NCAA Division II playoffs behind senior quarterback Anthony Abenoja, a three-year starter who capped his career as a Harlon Hill finalist.
Abenoja’s backup last season, Ramsey Hamilton, is out for the spring after shoulder surgery. Sophomore Thomas LePage is in the mix, as is Sam Houston State transfer John Roderique, a 6-foot-4, 205-pound redshirt freshman.
Roderique, who started classes at Pittsburg State in January, went 45-0 over his last three seasons of high school and won three straight Class 4A state titles at Webb City (Mo.) High. As a senior, he threw for 1,755 yards, rushed for 885 yards and was named the Class 4A Offensive Player of the Year. His father, John, was an All-Amerian linebacker at Pittsburg State and is the football coach at Webb City.
“We have a better idea of where we’re at after this spring,” Beck said. “But we’re not planning on naming a starter or anything like that until late August.”