Donors step to the plate as UC goes to work on Varsity Village
by John Bach
Green was certainly the color of the day inside Shoemaker Center March 17, 2003, and not only because it was St. Patrick's Day.
University officials accepted $10 million in cash from Fifth Third Bank that morning for the construction of Varsity Village, a week to the day after Richard Lindner committed $10.2 million to the same cause.
" We are doing this on every Monday or Tuesday," joked UC President Joseph Steger, in acceptance. "We need to find somebody for next week."
Though a third million-dollar Monday did not materialize, the athletics department is still well on its way toward an $80.3 million enhancement of its athletics complex, a move, officials say, will position all 18 varsity sports among the nation's elite. Some of the features of the project, which started in April, include an eight-story athletics center, a relocated baseball stadium, a tennis center and a renovated track and soccer venue.
In recognition of Lindner's generosity, the largest gift from an individual to one project in the university's history, UC's new complex will be named the Richard E. Lindner Varsity Village, and the new athletics center, the centerpiece of Varsity Village, will be named the Richard E. Lindner Center. Lindner is president of REL Group, a Greater Cincinnati-based holding company, and is former owner of the Thriftway supermarket chain.
The new facility will be the second on campus to bear the Lindner name. The first was the College of Business' Carl H. Lindner Hall, named after Richard's older brother, who has also given generously to UC.
"The university is proud to be associated with Richard Lindner, a quiet benefactor who has assisted many worthy programs in the community," Steger said. "The difference this makes in the lives of everybody who comes through here we cannot even estimate."
To recognize Fifth Third's gift to UC, the basketball venue has been renamed the Fifth Third Arena at Myrl H. Shoemaker Center. Fans will notice the addition of the Fifth Third shield at either end of the basketball court, which was named Ed Jucker Court in December to honor the former coach who passed away last year. Fifth Third's president and chief executive George Schaefer Jr., who is also chairman of the UC Board of Trustees, presented the oversized check to UC President Joseph Steger.
"These gifts bridge the past and the future," Schaefer said. "It is a vote of confidence in the university's vision to recruit and launch outstanding athletes and scholars, and a recognition of Dr. Steger's longstanding leadership at UC."
Athletics director Bob Goin said the major gifts will directly impact thousands of student athletes now and in the future.
"Anytime you receive a gift of this magnitude, it benefits so many," he said. "It really satisfies a mission for us to provide the best setting for a comprehensive intercollegiate program that can compete across this country. It is fitting that this gift comes from a nationally recognized financial institution of excellence to a (Carnegie) Research I university nationally recognized for its excellence."
Goin went on to point out that the goal is to create an "all-inclusive village" that will not only serve the 500 student athletes every year but also the student body and faculty with new workout facilities, a large auditorium, recreational fields and a new Faculty Club.