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ETSU to name fossil center, soccer stadium in honor of benefactors

March 29th, 2007 11:21 pm by SAM WATSON

JOHNSON CITY - East Tennessee State University's president will ask the university's governing panel today to name the Gray Fossil Site's visitors center and the new campus soccer stadium for business benefactors.

Meeting at Southwest Tennessee Community College in Memphis, the Tennessee Board of Regents will consider dubbing the Gray facility "The East Tennessee State University and General Shale Brick Natural History Museum and Visitor Center."

The TBR also will take up ETSU's request to name the soccer facility "Summers-Taylor Stadium" in honor of Robert and Nita Summers of Summers-Taylor Inc.

ETSU President Paul Stanton said the university appreciated the many years of support the Summers family and Summers-Taylor had provided.

"Their most recent initiatives, to assist our soccer programs, include a significant commitment toward the construction of this university's first soccer stadium," Stanton said. "Their daughter, Lena, played on our women's soccer team from 1998 until she graduated."

For the first time since the women's program started in 1997, the team will play on its own campus this fall, Stanton said.

The stadium's field and an accompanying practice field are already in place, and construction is scheduled to begin soon on the 1,000-seat stadium.

ETSU Athletic Director Dave Mullins said a pre-construction meeting with the project's contractor was planned for today. The $3 million project has a 210-day schedule, he said, so completion is expected by the end of October.

The team was scheduled to begin playing on the stadium field in August, Mullins said, and he hoped the stadium would be available for use by the season's end. Grading the fields represented the project's first phase. The second stage includes the stadium, a press box, two hospitality suites and entry gate/plaza with a ticket booth and concession stand.

A third phase would include additional facilities, a second gate and another practice field. Long-term plans include an arched entry, an elevated walking area and a field house, Mullins said.

ETSU plans to add a club-level men's soccer team this fall and advance to the varsity level in 2008.

As for the fossil center, Stanton said the histories of ETSU and General Shale Brick were intertwined and showed a record of cooperation and commitment. He said the partnership involved both people and financial resources. General Shale's president and CEO, Richard Green, is an ETSU alumnus, and the company has many employees who hold undergraduate and graduate degrees from ETSU.

"In particular, the company's comprehensive involvement with the design and construction of our new museum and visitor center at the Gray Fossil Site is unsurpassed," Stanton said. "General Shale's donation of over 200,000 bricks and other materials enabled the university and the state to save hundreds of thousands of dollars in construction costs that could be put to use elsewhere at the site."

Stanton also noted the company's artisans were creating a series of handcrafted brick sculptures for the facility illustrating specimens unearthed at the Gray dig.

Part museum and part laboratory, the fossil center was funded by an $8 million federal transportation grant and matching funds. Since construction was finished in February, designers have been completing exhibits in anticipation of a late summer opening.

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