Mabee Foundation Issues $717,000 Challenge

The J.E. and L.E. Mabee Foundation Inc. of Tulsa has issued a $717,000 challenge grant to Oklahoma Baptist University toward The Winning Spirit Campaign for Wellness and Athletics. The capital campaign is seeking $4.78 million for enhancement of athletic and wellness facilities on the campus.

The foundation’s grant is contingent upon the university securing the additional $4.063 million for the project by April 12, 2007. Components of The Winning Spirit Campaign include expansion and renovation of the Noble Complex for Athletics, a new track and field facility, expansion of the track building, a new baseball park, and relocation of intramural fields.

“These enhancements will increase the resources of our kinesiology and leisure studies academic division, meet the needs of our 16 varsity sports programs, and provide modern facilities and robust intramural and recreation programs for the entire campus community,” said OBU President Mark Brister.

University officials said Mabee Foundation challenge grant funds will be utilized for the Noble Complex expansion and renovation and expansion of the track building.

“With the addition of new varsity sports programs and growth in student-athlete enrollment, the needs of OBU’s students and athletic programs have outgrown our current facilities,” said Dr. Norris Russell, OBU director of athletics and chairman of the kinesiology and leisure studies division.

Since the Noble Complex was opened in 1982, OBU’s kinesiology and leisure studies program has grown from eight full-time faculty and staff and a secretary to 14 full-time and six part-time faculty and staff, at least four adjuncts teaching each semester and a secretary.

“In 1982, OBU signed approximately 130 student athletes, and in 2005 we signed 312 student athletes,” said Russell. “Our existing facility lacks sufficient classroom space for KALS academic programs. Our current athletic training room and varsity weight lifting room are too small to meet the needs of the number of student athletes enrolled at OBU. Current office space, locker space, and storage space are all inadequate for the size of our programs.”

Russell said with renovation and expansion, the Noble Complex will meet specific needs of student-athletes, and will enhance the educational resources for KALS programs.

OBU’s track and field program, which has won two of the university’s three NAIA national championships, has a record high of 93 student-athletes this year. In addition to the two national team championships, OBU has earned three national runner-up finishes, numerous national top 10 finishes, nearly 50 event championships, and scores of All-American honors.

From 1982 to 2005, OBU’s Clark Craig Fieldhouse served as the indoor practice facility for the university’s track and field teams and provided office space for coaches. However, the track team has not had exclusive practice space or locker rooms. With the relocation of the baseball park to the north side of OBU’s campus, the existing baseball/softball building will become the university’s track building. The facility will provide locker rooms and coaches’ offices. With a 4,125-square-foot expansion, the building also will offer 7,725 square feet of indoor practice space.

“The expanded track building, in addition to the new outdoor track and field facility, will provide OBU with a premier small college track facility,” said Russell.

The Mabee Foundation has supported several construction projects at OBU during the past 35 years, including the John Wesley Raley Chapel and the chapel’s Mabee Fine Arts Center; the Mabee Learning Center, OBU’s main library; the 2,400-seat Mabee Arena in the Noble Complex; the W.P. Wood Science Building; Montgomery Hall; Devereaux West Apartments; Mrs. W.S. Kerr Memorial Dormitory; and the Bailey Business Center. In 1998, the foundation issued a $400,000 challenge grant for the university’s fine arts renovation projects.

Founded in 1948 by John and Lottie Mabee, the foundation assists religious, charitable and educational organizations which “combine sound character and stability with progressiveness and purpose.” The foundation makes grants to institutions and organizations in a six-state region, including Arkansas, Kansas, Missouri, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Texas.