Millikin University held a Rededication Ceremony at the Big Blue's Frank M. Lindsay Field on Saturday, Sept. 27, to recognize the significant renovations and additions to the field, including a new artificial playing surface, field lighting, resurfaced track and video scoreboard. The ceremony was held prior to kickoff of the Big Blue's first home football game of the 2014 season versus Aurora University.
The Millikin football team defeated Aurora University 30-9 before a standing room only crowd in the first night football game played at Millikin since 1928.
As part of the ceremony, Millikin University President Dr. Patrick White, Director of Athletics and Recreation Dr. Craig White, and Vice President for Alumni and Development Dave Brandon spoke on behalf of the University.
Millikin officially broke ground on the new field turf project during a groundbreaking ceremony held May 16 on Millikin's campus. St. Louis-based Byrne & Jones Sports, a division of Byrne & Jones Construction Inc., was selected for the construction project that started in May 2014.
The field turf project, funded by donors to the university, is part of Millikin's "Transform MU" capital campaign. Total cost for the field turf project was $1.75 million. Running concurrently with the campaign project was a separate project to add a new video scoreboard and sound system to the field. It was financed by advertising dollars.
"The new turf, lights, resurfaced track and scoreboard are a major step forward for Millikin Athletics," said Millikin Director of Athletics and Recreation Dr. Craig White. "It is the stated mission of Millikin Athletics to create great experiences for student-athletes. These improvements will help us achieve this goal."
In addition to hosting football games, the improved facility serves as the new home field for the Big Blue soccer teams and will continue to host Millikin track and field events. The field also serves as a practice facility for Millikin softball and baseball teams during the early portion of the spring season.
Prior to the field turf project, the last major upgrade to Millikin's Frank M. Lindsay Field was completed more than 15 years ago. The durability of the new artificial turf surface allows games and practices to be held on the same field, and the addition of lights provides greater flexibility in scheduling games and practices as well as use by intramural athletics.
"Millikin University is committed to Performance Learning in all aspects of student experience," said Millikin President Dr. Patrick White. "These exciting new improvements to our athletic facilities will enable our students to perform to their best ability and increase their potential and growth."
Donations to the project from alumni and friends of the university have included numerous gifts to name distinctive areas of the new field in honor of two former outstanding MU football coaches and alumni: the late Don Shroyer '50 of Decatur and Carl Poelker '68 of Breese, Ill. The blue end zones at Frank M. Lindsay field are named in honor of Coach Shroyer and the visitors sideline in honor of Coach Poelker.
The home sidelines were funded by former Big Blue football player and senior co-captain John Manner '67.
Don Shroyer was head coach of the Big Blue football team from 1956 to 1961, which included his team's historic 1961 undefeated season when he was named conference Coach of the Year. He went on to serve as offensive and defensive backfield coach for the NFL's St. Louis Cardinals in 1962. As a Millikin student-athlete, Shroyer had an outstanding career as a Big Blue running back, and was signed by the Chicago Bears before returning to serve MU as head football coach in 1956. Honored in 1970 as a charter member of Millikin's Athletic Hall of Fame, Shroyer was inducted into the Decatur Athletic Council Hall of Fame in 1997.
Carl Poelker, who helped coach the Big Blue football team for 27 years and served as head coach from 1982-95, still holds the record for the most football coaching wins in Millikin's history (88-39-1). Poelker retired in 2012 from McKendree College after 17 years as that school's head coach. He amassed 116 wins at McKendree, where his teams won seven conference championships and made nine appearances at the NAIA championships. As a Millikin student-athlete, Poelker earned all-district honors as a defensive lineman.
President White added, "These changes will also heighten the experience for our visiting teams and our fans, so that all who come to Frank M. Lindsay Field will increase their respect for Millikin and Decatur. All at Millikin are grateful to those whose vision and support made these improvements possible."
For more information on the Frank M. Lindsay Field 2014 renovations and improvements project, visit http://bit.ly/MU-Turf.
Frank M. Lindsay Field
Named in memory of long-time Decatur business leader and media owner, and recognizing the support given to Millikin by his family, Frank M. Lindsay Field was dedicated on Oct. 17, 1987.
Gifts from the Lindsay family and from an endowment fund created in 1961 by former members of the defunct Kappa Delta Chi fraternity financed the project. Donations from the classes of 1979 and 1980 assisted in the purchase of a scoreboard, while a new sound system, an improved drainage system and an underground irrigation system were also added.
Frank M. Lindsay Field seats 4,000, including seating for spectators on the west side. Lindsay Field also includes a concession stand and restrooms under the southwest corner of the grandstand.
A media suite is located on the west side of the field. Construction of a new media suite concluded in spring 2001 and was funded entirely with the gift of $800,000 from the late F. Merrill and the late Margery "Sis" Lindsay.
In the summer of 2001, the media suite was used when Millikin hosted the NCAA Division III Track & Field Championships and the USATF Youth Championships. Millikin also hosted the NCAA Division III Outdoor Championships and the USATF Masters Meet in 2003.
Millikin awarded an honorary degree to Frank Lindsay in 1954 and to his son, F. Merrill Lindsay, in 1981, making them one of the only two father-son combinations to be recognized by the University. F. Merrill Lindsay and his wife, Sis, donated a gift of $1 million to Millikin in 1997 for the new running track around the football field. The gift provided the impetus for the track project.
Frank M. Lindsay Field served as the site of the Millikin football program's 500th win. The Big Blue won the program's 500th contest on Nov. 13, 2004, a 45-24 victory over Illinois Wesleyan University.