Bellarmine building new sports complex, may add football team

This rendering shows how Bellarmine University may develop a new athletic park. | Courtesy of Bardenwerper, Talbott & Roberts PLLC

This rendering shows how Bellarmine University may develop a new athletic park. | Courtesy of Bardenwerper, Talbott & Roberts PLLC

Bellarmine University has drafted plans for a new sports park in anticipation of possibly adding a Division 2 NCAA football program to its roster of sports offerings.

Regardless of whether Bellarmine starts a football program, the property along Newburg Road and Champions Trace Lane will become an intercollegiate athletic facility, said Jason Cissell, Bellarmine’s director of media relations and social networking. No cost estimates have been drawn up.

Jeffersonville, Ind.-based Heritage Engineering created the preliminary design for the sports park. The current plans call for a 2,500-seat stadium, a 30,000-square-foot indoor practice facility, six tennis courts and a 24,590-square-foot team facility with office and locker rooms. The team facility would be located in the former church building.

However, the exact layout and facilities incorporated into the project could change depending on whether the university adds a football team, Cissell said, adding that the build-out will be “less intense” without a football team.

Although the basic aspects of the project will remain the same — the indoor sports facility, multi-use field and athletic offices — the type of sports it could accommodate is “pretty fluid,” he said. “The number of possibilities — I wouldn’t say it’s infinite, but it’s great.”

The field and field house could become multi-use facilities for the sports that Bellarmine already offers, such as soccer, field hockey and lacrosse, if not used for football, for example.

“This would lighten some of the burden on our on-campus stadium,” Cissell said, adding that the current fields on campus are consistently in use by various sports.

Bellarmine officials are investigating whether the creation of a football team is feasible.

“We are still doing research on what that would mean for the university,” Cissell said. “Football programs aren’t cheap. We would be playing at the NCAA Division 2 level, and while the scale goes down a little bit, you still have the same equipment that Division 1 teams have.”

The university also is considering the rewards of instituting a football program, including offering a new experience for students and alumni and its ability to be a recruiting and fundraising tool.

“(Sports are) really just part of the full college experience, not only having teams to cheer for and games to go to but having activities for students,” Cissell said.

There is no timeline for when Bellarmine officials will make a recommendation to the Board of Trustees regarding a football program. The trustees must approve the creation of any new sports program.

Bellarmine purchased three of the properties it needs for the project last year for a total of $1.12 million, and university officials are in talks with two other property owners. It plans to acquire 4300 Champions Trace Lane and a portion of 3430 Newburg Road.

The Newburg Road property has an office building on it that will remain. Bellarmine wants to buy the unused back portion of the property where it plans to build the intercollegiate athletic stadium.

That purchase will move forward if the university is granted a zoning change request. Bellarmine has asked the city to rezone the land C-2, a high-density commercial designation; the properties are currently zoned for a mix of residential, office residential, industrial and C-2.