Clear Creek Athletics Complex Takes Shape

Mines is stepping up its game.

You can see it everywhere from the development of endowed chairs to the expansion of campus housing to the raising of academic standards.

Mines’ athletics must be part of that surge forward.

Mines boasts 500 student-athletes competing in 18 varsity sports. The school’s athletic teams have consistently ranked among the top 25 NCAA Division II programs in the country.

“We have a long, rich tradition of athletics,” says Dan Fox, vice president of student life and dean of students. “Some people just didn’t know it.”

Well, certainly some folks have known about Mines’ impressive athletics program, which has been in place for more than 125 years. But has it reached the kind of high profile worthy of a great university?

That’s the question Mines supporters have been asking, and it’s a question that’s driving a new initiative to emphasize the benefits of athletic competition for a comprehensive Mines experience. As the school upgrades its academic facilities, builds a stronger faculty and attracts ever-more high-achieving students, Mines’ supporters see now as the time to invest anew in athletics as well.

Clear Creek Athletics Complex initiative
The Clear Creek Athletics Complex, a capstone project, will ensure that all athletics facilities at Colorado School of Mines reflect the student-athletes’ commitment to excellence. The facility will include an athletics center housing multi-sport locker rooms, strength training and sports medicine facilities for men and women, office and event space, and functional areas for club sports and intramurals. The project also includes updates to the soccer pitch area, a modern press box, new lighting for the track and field complex, public restrooms and flexibility for future expansion.

The complex will also serve as a powerful recruiting tool, helping Mines continue to attract and support some of the nation’s most talented student-athletes, young men and women so grounded in scholarship that their GPAs exceed those of the general student body.

The cornerstone of the complex will be the construction of the Marv Kay Stadium, a modern facility that will replace Mines’ 91-year-old stadium, one of the oldest in the country.

Marv Kay Stadium
It’s named, of course, after legendary Mines football coach Marv Kay, who also served as the mayor and a city councilman of Golden as well as a student, athlete, faculty member and athletics director at Mines. 

The Orediggers’ mascot, Marvin the Miner, is named after Kay.

“He’s the face of Mines,” Fox says. “He impacted so many people’s lives. He made a difference for so many.”

David Hansburg, Mines athletics director, toured the campus before taking the job in summer 2013 and was blown away by the new recreation center and other facility upgrades.

Then, when he got to the old stadium, it was like a step back in time.

“I thought, ‘This really doesn’t fit in,’ ” he says.

But when he saw the plans for the new Marv Kay Stadium and the Athletics Center, he could see it all coming together.

“You tour this school and you can see it getting bigger and better every moment, and that’s what excited me.”

Donors are helping to build community
“Donors are making this happen for us. It’s going to help performance and improve safety, and it’s going to have a huge impact for the Mines community well beyond our football team,” Fox says. “The complex will further our efforts to create a full and enriching student experience, while promoting wellness and school spirit. It also impacts faculty and staff in a positive way. It brings everybody together.”

And by “everybody,” he certainly includes alumni and friends, keeping them connected with the school and its rich athletic heritage. 

The new stadium will be just one part of the multiphase Clear Creek Project, which began with the renovation of the softball field and construction of the James Darden Baseball Field, and continued with the construction of a soccer stadium and new Stermole Track & Field Complex.

Among the generous donors who are making this a reality: Steve ’64 and Dollie Chesebro’ and Rob ’68 and Ann McKee, each of whom donated $1 million toward the Clear Creek Athletic Complex.

Mines student-athletes
“Facilities help you train,” says Orediggers quarterback Matt Brown. “They’ll make you a better athlete, and that’s what people look for when they’re getting recruited to go places.”

However, even as Mines and its generous donors invest in facilities to support a world-class athletics program, students understand that Mines will never compromise its academics for the sake of winning games.

“I think we define ‘student-athlete’ better than almost any other school in the nation,” says Mines golfer Elliot Feng. “Our academic standards are off the charts.  At Mines, you’re expected to do what every other student does – as an athlete.”

Alumnus and longtime Mines supporter F. Steve Mooney ’56 remembers how valuable that balance of athletics and academics was to him, as he studied geology and geological engineering while playing varsity basketball and “just about all of the club sports.”

“I think athletics plays a key role in the overall pursuit of excellence,” says Mooney, who went on to become CEO of the Thompson Creek Metals Company and now runs Mooney Enterprises.

He’s an example of how valuable a thriving athletics program can be, both for students and the community they enter after college.

“There’s no doubt that athletes are highly sought after by employers,” Fox says. “What we see is that they’ve learned to manage their time well, learned how to work on a team, how to overcome failure, how to lead. It makes them exceptionally well-rounded people when they leave, which is probably why we anecdotally hear that student-athletes are attaining higher positions  earlier in their careers.”

Mines supporter Rob McKee can attest to that. After Mines, he went on to serve as executive vice president of Conoco and ConocoPhillips.

“I believe with all my heart that the things I learned on the athletic field were as important to my career as the things I learned in the classroom,” McKee says. “An institution renowned for its academic prowess also needs to build its athletic prowess. They must go hand in hand.”

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