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UNI unveils conceptual renderings for proposed new wrestling training facility

by Joel Wauters, UNI Athletics

Artist rendering of proposed UNI wrestling facility inside. (Photo by Northern Iowa Athletics)

CEDAR FALLS, Iowa – The University of Northern Iowa unveiled conceptual renderings for a proposed new wrestling training facility at UNI Wrestling's media day on Thursday. UNI has asked the Iowa Board of Regents for permission to plan for such a facility, and the matter is on the docket for consideration at the Board's upcoming meeting in Cedar Falls on November 15-16.


Subject to Board of Regents' approval at the November meeting, UNI can begin the necessary planning to evaluate potential designs that could be scaled to the size and scope that fundraising efforts would permit. This building will be solely financed by private gifts.


The new facility will meet the program's existing and anticipated future needs with room for multiple mats, weight and cardio training space, locker room, training room and rehabilitation space, as well as office space for the wrestling staff. UNI and experienced architects will continue to collaborate on the project, if approved. UNI officials have previously indicated that incorporating elements of the West Gym into the design of the new wrestling facility is essential.


"We're committed to the success of our athletics programs at the University of Northern Iowa, and it is my goal to grow the sport of wrestling at UNI and in the state of Iowa," said President Mark Nook. "We have a big lift in front of us, but when you consider the history of the University of Northern Iowa, Panther Athletics, the Panther Train and the individual student-athletes in the wrestling program, it gives me great confidence in this project.


In October, UNI announced that it planned to add a new training facility for its wrestling program pending to the Our Tomorrow fundraising campaign. To date, over $246 million has been raised over the course of a campaign set to run through UNI's sesquicentennial in 2026 thanks to the generosity of over 27,000 individual donors.


"The inclusion of this new wrestling practice facility in the Our Tomorrow campaign gives us the ability to put the full force of the university behind this project. It certainly shows that it is a priority," said Athletics Director David Harris. "The future of the wrestling program is bright. It continues to excel at a high level. If you have not been a fan of Panther wrestling, this is a great time to throw your support behind our coaches and these young men."


Artist rendering of proposed UNI Wrestling facility - from outside (Photo by Northern Iowa Athletics)

Under head coach Doug Schwab, the Panthers finished eighth in the nation in NCAA Division I dual meet attendance last season, averaging 2,812 during six home duals at the McLeod Center. UNI also posted the fourth-best team grade point average (GPA) in the nation at 3.48 with a program-high seven student-athletes earning spots on the National Wrestling Coaches Association 2022-23 Scholar All-America Team.


"The people around our athletes are the most important, but having a facility that meets our needs is critical," said Coach Doug Schwab. "I'm thinking about how we can get our next 100-year-old building. How that will happen is a lot of fans, a lot of donors and a lot of people who believe in what we're doing beyond the wrestling mat."


Wrestling has served as a rich part of UNI's fabric since its initial varsity team was formed in 1923. The proud history of UNI Wrestling includes the 1950 team that captured the NCAA Division I title at the West Gym. The Panthers also were crowned NCAA Division II champions in both 1975 and 1978. The 1978 NCAA Championships were hosted at the UNI-Dome. The program boasts five Olympians, including Bill Smith who won the gold medal at the 1952 Helsinki Games.


More recently, Parker Keckeisen (184 lbs.) became UNI's 10th three-time All-American after winning the silver medal at the 2023 NCAA Championships. The Panthers have claimed 17 individual NCAA titles, including Drew Foster (184 lbs.), who won UNI's most recent individual crown at the 2019 NCAA Championships.


Athletics projects financed through private fundraising efforts are not a new concept for UNI Athletics. In the 1970s, plans for the UNI-Dome were unveiled and approximately $7.5 million was privately raised for the construction of the facility that opened in 1976. The $25 million McLeod Center was conceived and constructed with private dollars and opened in 2006.


While UNI is adding a wrestling training facility to its goals, at its essence the Our Tomorrow campaign is about direct investments in students with a goal of creating a path to opportunity for many more students. A total of 412 new scholarships have been established thus far through Our Tomorrow. By 2026, the university hopes to have raised over $70 million for scholarships.


Since its founding, UNI has adapted to meet the needs of the state of Iowa and the country as a whole. Investments in innovative and transformative programs will power UNI's enduring spirit of innovation. Direct support for faculty will ensure UNI continues to recruit and retain teacher-scholars who make the university and its students successful.


More information about funding the wrestling training facility and the Our Tomorrow campaign can be found at ourtomorrow.uni.edu/wrestlingtrainingfacility.


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