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Mount Mercy Announces $3 Million Gift Toward Athletic Complex

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CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa - A campaign that began last year to give Mount Mercy University its first-ever "home field advantage" took a significant step forward this week with a $3 million donation.

The Cedar Rapids-based private school secured the gift from the Robert W. Plaster Foundation in support of its proposed outdoor athletic complex, which will bear the donor's name.

The goal, according to university officials, is to begin practicing and competing in the $15 million Robert W. Plaster Athletic Complex by June 2017. It will include four facilities that will support six teams and 1,800-some athletes both those who play for Mount Mercy and against them in the Midwest Collegiate Conference.

"We also are partnering with the Cedar Rapids school district and summer youth programs so they can use the facilities as well," said Duff Ridgeway, Mount Mercy vice president for development and alumni relations.

Mount Mercy's 15 intercollegiate athletic teams never have had a "home field" advantage and instead have always used various fields and facilities around the community for practice and competitions, Ridgeway said.

"The athletes are traveling all over town," he said, "and that takes away from their homework and studying."

The proposed complex will include baseball, softball, soccer and multipurpose fields along with a track, concession stands and other amenities on 22 acres of land previously home to Terex Cedarapids. That company, which makes rock crushing and paving equipment, closed its Cedar Rapids factory in 2010, and Mount Mercy is redeveloping just a portion of its 51-acre site at 909 17th St. NE.

The Hall-Perrine Foundation last year promised $4 million for construction of the athletic complex if Mount Mercy raised twice that amount by Dec. 31, 2015. Once the university has tallied its first $12 million, it will begin phase two of the campaign to raise another $3 million.

"The additional $3 million puts amenities within the complex," Ridgeway said.

This week's donation brings Mount Mercy's fundraising total to $9 million two-thirds of the way to its first-phase goal.

The Robert W. Plaster Foundation, based in Lebanon, Mo., exists to "expand educational opportunities for students in the Midwest through named capital projects." Mount Mercy interim president Norm Nielsen said this week's "naming gift" pushing forward the larger project "gives Mount Mercy and the Cedar Rapids community a tremendous boost."

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