Investing In Our Champions
Winona State University student-athletes are among the best in the nation, both in and out of the classroom.
Their commitment and dedication to living the mission of Winona State is inspiring, which is why the WSU Foundation has launched a new initiative to invest in student-athletes and give them access to all the opportunities they need to succeed.
Winona State is widely known to have state-of-the-art facilities like the Integrated Wellness Complex, offering first-class amenities that provide students with a rich campus experience and give the University a competitive edge when recruiting new students. However, this isn’t consistent across all WSU facilities, and when current and prospective WSU students make a visit to the WSU stadium, all they see is a crumbling foundation, drafty locker rooms, and an outdated facility ill-suited to meet the needs of today’s student-athletes.
Renovation of the current Altra Federal Credit Union Stadium is a necessary project for student success, according to Winona State President Scott Olson. The facility was last renovated in the 1970s and struggles to support today’s campus community—from the student-athletes who depend on the field to help them develop and perform safely to the WSU students, parents and other fans who are proud members of the Warrior Nation and want to share in the experience.
“This is a project I can very enthusiastically get behind,” Olson said. “On campus I look at what pieces are missing and where do we really need to add some facilities. This is one of the critical pieces that students come to expect, and we know it will help students be more successful.”
Lauden Wood ’17, former captain and member of the Warriors football team from 2012–16, agreed that an investment in WSU’s stadium is an investment in student success, noting that athletic performance often hinges as much on the mental as the physical, and “home court advantage” can help bolster an athlete’s performance. The energy of the crowd can go a long way after a couple of rough plays, and an enthusiastic crowd can help cheer the Warriors on to a win on game day.
“I think it is going to impact our football players mentally more than anything – the renovation itself,” said Wood. “That’s because our coaches, the alumni, donors, and our community are all backing this huge project in order for us to have a field to play on.”
Since the stadium was built in the 1930s, Winona State has grown from a few hundred students to over 8,000. In terms of capacity, the 80-year-old facility ranks third to last in its conference. It’s difficult for fans to find a spot in the student section or general seating when there are 4,500 fans and only 3,000 seats.
“We run out of seats, and people stop coming,” Eric Schoh, WSU Athletic Director, said. “Sometimes it’s just easier to watch the game at home than it is to come out to the stadium.”
With the planned renovations, there will be up to 7,000 seats available, allowing for an enjoyable experience for all ages and abilities. “With more available seating, I think that will change, and that will also contribute to that game environment,” Schoh finished.
In addition to increased seating capacity, the proposed stadium renovation will feature easily accessible Warrior Wear shops, concessions and additional bathrooms – no more waiting in line for a portable toilet!
Head Football Coach Tom Sawyer ’83, ’89 knows just how important it is for everyone to have a good experience. He said, “When every person that comes in [to the new stadium], whether they’re a young child, an elderly person, or even in handicap accessible areas, that everybody has a chance to get close to the action, to feel that action and to also be part of the activity that is going on.”
Upgrades to WSU’s stadium will stand to benefit everyone from students in intramural and club sports to community members, local high school students, and other outside groups that can make use of the increased capacity and amenities available in the renovated stadium.
The Warrior Athletics program has developed a proud legacy that many want to be a part of, but unfortunately, the drawbacks of having an outdated stadium often overshadow the opportunities and successes of the University and its students and athletic teams.
According to Mikaella Sabinash ’18, a senior soccer player, a high-quality facility indicates a university community willing to invest in the success of its students.
“I think the renovation will help us recruit future soccer players for Winona State’s program by helping us compete with other schools and universities’ with their facilities,” Sabinash said. “I think a huge factor in recruiting and choosing a place to play soccer comes down to the quality of facilities.”
Former WSU Student Senate President Josh Hanson ’16 agreed with Sabinash: “We, in terms of DII facilities, are lacking, especially when it comes to our football stadium right now.”
For Hanson, the potential benefits of an upgrade to WSU’s stadium go far beyond recruiting student-athletes. A large part of deciding on a school revolves around student life and activities and amenities available at the university. With a top of the line, renovated stadium, Winona State will be able to offer a better atmosphere at sporting events and an improved college experience overall.
“We need [to] continue having that engagement and having students more satisfied with Winona State, more excited about going to Winona State, and they’re really going to feel a deeper connection to Winona State.”
The proposed stadium is part of the larger mission of WSU to give students the best tools, opportunities and resources to help them succeed. Find out more and invest in our champions at winona.edu/foundation/stadium.asp