Groundbreaking Held for Millikin’s New David J. and Debra C. Rathje Athletic Center

The estimated $10 million, 17,555-square-foot facility is expected to be completed in late 2024.

The Rathje Athletic Center

DECATUR, Ill. - A ceremonial groundbreaking was held on Millikin University’s campus on Friday, Sept. 15 as the first step in construction of the new David J. and Debra C. Rathje Athletic Center which will benefit Big Blue student-athletes.  

The groundbreaking was led by the Rathjes, Millikin President Dr. Jim Reynolds, Board of Trustees Chair Ron Branch ’81, Vice President of Alumni and Development Gina Bianchi ’93 and Athletic Director Dr. Craig White. The new Athletic facility will be completely funded by donations, including generous lead gifts from David ’58 and Debra Rathje, Jim Perryman ’83 and the Perryman family.

Athletic Center Groundbreaking

The estimated $10 million, 17,555-square-foot facility will be located immediately south of Frank M. Lindsay Field and west of Griswold Physical Education Center and is expected to be completed by late 2024. The architectural partner for the project is BLDD, a Decatur firm.

"This initiative continues Millikin's forward-thinking momentum and will add to the outstanding physical transformations we have seen on campus over the last few years, including the Workman Family Baseball Field and the Center for Theatre & Dance," Reynolds said.

"Millikin Athletics programs serve as a great source of pride for the University, the surrounding communities and beyond. The support we have seen from alumni and friends of the University for this initiative not only shapes the future of Millikin Athletics but will benefit the University's enrollment efforts and the entire community."

The building floor plan includes:

• A weight room named in honor of former Big Blue Football Coach Carl Poelker ’68 and Jim Perryman ’83, a former NFL player.  
• Locker rooms to accommodate junior varsity and varsity football, and men's and women's track and field. 
• A training room, conference room and a team meeting room for multi-purpose use. 
• Football Hall of Fame, retired jersey and team recognition area. 
• Offices for Football, Men’s and Women’s Soccer, Men’s and Women’s Track and Field Coaches and Athletic Director.

"We very much believe in giving back to our community, which is one of the reasons why we chose to support this building project," David Rathje said. "As someone who was born and raised in Decatur, we want to see the community and Millikin University thrive. We believe that the addition of on-campus athletic facilities aids in the recruitment of student-athletes and also increases the enjoyment of campus life for all students."

David J. and Debra C. Rathje
David J. and Debra C. Rathje

The new facility will alleviate congestion in the Griswold Physical Education Center, while meeting the needs of several Big Blue athletes and teams.

“Big Blue athletics has grown over the past few decades as more students come to college with the hope of continuing to participate in the sports they played in high school.  When I was a Millikin student, the University had a total of 13 different sports. Today that number is 20,” Branch said. “Nearly 40% of Millikin’s current students participate, or have participated, in athletics. Because so many of our students play for the Big Blue, our athletic facilities are an important part of the overall undergraduate experience, supporting student-athlete recruiting, practice and competition.”

For more information on this and other Millikin initiatives, contact Vice President of Alumni and Development Gina Bianchi ’93 at 217.424.6383 or

To learn more about the Rathje Athletic Center or to make a gift in support of this project, visit