Construction, Higher Education, and Sports Business

A field of dreams — and dorms

Cornerstone University builds unique project with city’s help.

January 5, 2013
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A field of dreams and dorms
Cornerstone University is investing $8 million into a project that will include a baseball stadium, athletic center and student housing complex - all in the same building. Courtesy Cornerstone University

The Grand Rapids Economic Development Corp. unanimously agreed last week to issue revenue bonds on behalf of Cornerstone University for the school’s latest construction project, which will create a new baseball stadium, an athletic center for the team’s players, and an undergraduate residence hall.

The $5.4 million endeavor is a one-of-a-kind development: The team’s athletic center and the student housing complex are in the same building. The center and residence hall will be situated just beyond the stadium’s centerfield wall.

The university is spending another $2.6 million on the baseball stadium, which brings the entire cost of the project to $8 million. Cornerstone played on the field last fall.

“This is going to be a nice addition for us,” said Mark Fowler, an executive vice president and COO at Cornerstone. “This is going to be a self-liquidating project.”

The building offers 45,000 square feet of space, and roughly half of that square footage will be devoted to the residence hall. The dormitory rooms will accommodate 92 students and are being built along both sides of the athletic center, which will result in four sections of housing.

Fowler said the additional rooms are necessary because the on-campus undergraduate population at Cornerstone has nearly doubled over the past few years, growing from 450 students to 850.

“This will not be an athletic dormitory. We will mix our students,” he said.

GMB Architecture and Engineering of Holland and Visbeen Associates of Grand Rapids designed the project, one of six turf fields GMB has drawn up in the region this past year. The firm, which also has an office on East Beltline Avenue, acquired Visbeen last July and the two companies decided to retain their separate identities after the acquisition was finalized.

“We’re on target. We’re on budget,” said Fowler. “We will be completed during the first week of August.”

The stadium will seat 500 fans. The athletic facility will have locker rooms for men’s baseball and women’s softball, a training center, a weight room, indoor pitching machines and batting cages, and a state-of-the-art press box.

 Cornerstone University baseball stadium
Cornerstone teams played on the new field last year. Officials hope the entire complex will be completed in August. Courtesy Cornerstone University

“We’re very excited to bring baseball back to CU, along with a brand new facility for the program,” said Dave Grube, Cornerstone athletic director.

Cornerstone last played baseball in 1996. The Golden Eagles will open the season in Memphis Feb. 15 against Victory University.

Jack and Mary DeWitt of Request Foods in Holland gave Cornerstone $1.5 million for the project, a significant gift that will fully fund the baseball facility and also provide seed money for a new chapel and arts center. The DeWitts were honored by the university at the groundbreaking ceremony held in November 2011.

The city’s EDC gets its authority to issue the bonds for Cornerstone from the Economic Development Corp.’s Act of 1974.

“We won’t issue the bonds until the project is complete,” said Dick Wendt, legal counsel for the EDC and a partner at Dickinson Wright.

Wendt said he would develop the bond agreement with James White, a municipal finance attorney at Mika, Meyers, Beckett & Jones, who is representing Cornerstone. Wendt also said city commissioners will appoint two directors to the financing team Jan. 22.

City Economic Development Director Kara Wood said the bond issue will be sold by PNC Bank’s National Association, which provides various services to individuals, small businesses and government entities.

The baseball field, athletic center and residence hall are being built on the west side of Cornerstone’s East Beltline campus, situated between Leonard and Bradford streets NE.

Cornerstone is an independent, non-denominational Christian university that has a full-time staff of 287 and 200 adjunct professors. The new residence hall will result in the hiring of a director and four student employees.

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