|President Bill Perry tries on a pair of work gloves before using a pair of pruning shears to cut the ceremonial blue ribbon.|
The grand opening was a simple one – cake, punch, a pair of pruning shears…
A small but appreciative audience gathered recently as Eastern Illinois University President Bill Perry donned a pair of workman’s gloves and, using the pruning shears, cut a ceremonial blue ribbon signifying the completion of the institution’s newest building.
Located west of O’Brien Stadium in the university’s Facilities Planning & Management complex, the facility is the new center of operations for Eastern’s groundskeepers and all the equipment they need to care for the 320-acre campus year round.
As a traditionally built pole building with a large, attached lean-to for additional storage, it’s not an architectural wonder. It is, however, a significant improvement for the department and its employees who previously worked and congregated in a confined space.
“The new building allowed us to make some safety improvements,” said David Crockett, associate director for maintenance and operations. “In addition to separate storage areas for chemicals and cleaning supplies, our employees now have a larger inside area in which to store and maintain the various machines they use in their work.”
Also in attendance at the grand opening, William Weber, vice president for business affairs, noted his appreciation for the new building and thanked the Council on University Planning and Budget for its support for the project.
"The council identified the new grounds facility as a campus priority that was worthy of funding," he said.
According to Scott Hall, superintendent of grounds, Eastern currently employs 18 individuals (13 during the winter months), hired to keep the campus safe for student, faculty and staff use, and attractive for Eastern constituencies and visitors – including future Panthers.
“The president has placed significant focus on the campus grounds, which, of course, is what all prospective students and their families see when they come to visit,” said Steve Shrake, associate director for design and construction. “The overall appearance of a campus can certainly affect admissions.”
In addition to mowing, seeding, fertilizing, watering and maintaining the university's trees, shrubbery and flowers, the department removes trash from across campus. Employees set up barricades and banners for special events.
And they’re the ones, Hall added, who are responsible for removing the snow and ice from sidewalks and parking lots to ensure the safety of students and other university employees – even if it means getting to work in the middle of the night.
In addition to mowing the sports and band fields, grounds crews also do additional tasks to help maintain some of Eastern’s athletic venues – the replacement of nets on the tennis courts, for example.
And then, there’s always the unexpected.
“We retrieved a golf cart that someone had turned upside down in the center of the soccer field during spring commencement,” Hall recalled.
Crockett said the area formerly occupied by the Grounds Shop is being renovated, and will allow for the expansion of Eastern’s Paint Shop and a new headquarters for Facilities Planning & Management’s building service workers.
EIU Campus at a Glance
320 total acres
42 acres of parking lots
230 acres of turf and landscapes
10-plus miles of sidewalks
7,500 square feet of annual
330,028 square feet of perennial
Five intercollegiate game fields
Six intercollegiate tennis courts
Five intercollegiate practice fields
Four to six intramural game fields
Two club sports fields
General Campus Sports
Seven tennis courts
Seven basketball courts
One softball field
Five sand volleyball courts
Two band fields
Shown, from left to right (front row), are William Weber, vice president for business affairs; Larry Shobe; Greg Lee; Reggie Galey (kneeling); Robert Sedlmayr; Brent Brown; Kayla Sondgeroth; Scott Hall, superintendent of grounds; Tim Zimmer, director of Facilities Planning and Management; and Steve Shrake, associate director, FPM. Shown, from left to right (second row), are Dave Crockett, associate director, FPM; EIU President Bill Perry; Mike Rodebaugh; Mark Weaver; Karala Eastin; Ricky Haney; Mark Setzer; Jim Cox; and Levi Lee.