Though the UW-River Falls Athletic Department has seen its share of progress the last few years, it will see the most growth when the long-awaited Falcon Center project is completed.
In 2010, the Falcon Athletic Department unveiled a five-year strategic plan that lays out seven goals for the department to strive for.
UW-River Falls Athletic Director Roger Ternes said that while things are going well, there are still challenges to be worked around.
“We’re headed in the right direction, though it never seems to happen fast enough. You like to have things moving at maybe a faster pace, but state statutes, fundraising, and staffing issues can temper what you’re able to do,” the third-year UWRF athletic director said.
A big step in that right direction will be the Falcon Center, a building set to open in 2016 that will replace the Karges Center and the Eugene Nelson building.
According to Ternes, it will be the single largest construction project in UWRF history. The center will include classrooms, lab spaces, two new gymnasiums and a fitness center. One of the gymnasiums will be home to men’s and women’s basketball.
The project will also give the Hunt-Knowles Complex a face lift. Ternes said that the Falcon Center will set UWRF apart from other Division III institutions.
“Most 18-year-olds are more interested in shiny new buildings than older historic buildings,” Ternes said. “I don’t think it’ll enhance just athletes; it will also increase the quality of the young women and men that come to the school. It will be a show place, if you will, for this region.”
Ternes said that as these projects come together, UWRF is going to see growth in recreational sports, the health and human performance department, and athletics.
A part of one of those goals in the strategic plan is to increase ticket sales by 10 percent each year. Ternes said that sales are going well and the way to increase ticket sales is a pretty simple one.
“Winning drives ticket sales,” Ternes said. He cited the recent successes of the men’s and women’s basketball teams and women’s hockey as examples of winning teams creating more fan interest. Women’s hockey, specifically, saw the biggest percentage of increase in ticket sales according to the athletic director. Ternes also said that new facilities will help sales as well.
Another one of the department’s goals is to strengthen its relationships with alumni and alumni contributions.
The University is responsible for about $2 million of the $63 million project and they have currently raised roughly $1.3 million. Ternes said that the reaction from UWRF alumni has been very positive about not only the Falcon Center, but also the planned renovation of Ramer Field.
“Our alumni have been interested in both projects; some are very passionate about what we’re doing. We stayed in contact with thousands of alumni, not just athletes, and they can see the value of these projects,” Ternes said.
Adding more sports is a possibility for the department; men’s and women’s lacrosse is the most likely to be added.
Ternes also said it would take an operational budget between $75,000 and $100,000 per sport per year and that in these economic times, it would be too expensive.
Branding UWRF and Falcon Athletics is another priority for the department. From the new banners at Ramer Field to small things like putting the Falcon logo on chairs, the athletic department is making an effort to establish a brand.
Ternes said that they are attempting to make the brand an “image of who we are and where we’re trying to go.” It will be great whether you’re an alum or attracting new students.
The Falcon Center is set to open in the Fall of 2016. Ternes said that he “can’t wait.”