As Brenau University settles into its new expansion at the Georgia Mountains Center, university officials continue talks to grow the campus even more. This time, discussions involve a new home for the university’s ever-growing athletic department.
On Monday, during a ceremony welcoming the university to the downtown center, Brenau President Ed Schrader announced early plans to expand the school’s reach into the New Holland area.
Schrader confirmed the university has been in talks with Pacolet Milliken Enterprises about using fields behind the company’s plant on Jesse Jewell Parkway, but, he said, no details have been worked out.
“We’re in the making friends stage,” said Schrader. “It’s early in the conversation, but I feel very hopeful something will work out.”
He expects more details to surface in early January after the two organizations agree on the future of the space.
The possible expansion, however, is not a new conversation.
About this time last year, the university was looking at building a new softball field close to the tennis courts on the north end of campus, according to university spokesman David Morrison. Those talks never matured, he said.
“We’ve got to expand athletic facilities — that’s a given,” said Morrison.
According to school officials, five times the number of athletes is on campus today than 10 years ago. In the past year, the school has added a track and field program, as well as announcing the creation of a golf team.
New facilities, they said, would be the next step.
“In addition to the recent successes of all our sports programs, I think this is kind of the next step in elevating the stature of our programs is to provide venues where they can successfully compete,” said Mike Lochstampfor, Brenau’s athletic director.
Currently, softball, soccer, competitive cheerleading and track and field all practice and compete on off-campus, nonuniversity facilities, including Lanier Point and Allen Creek.
“We do share some space with some community organizations, so I think as the population of both Gainesville and Brenau grows, then there’s going to be an anticipated need for us to find a long-term home for several of our programs,” said Lochstampfor. “So, that’s the goal eventually.”
Preliminary hopes are to house softball, track and field and soccer in one facility.
According to Schrader, the school has already been in talks with Pacolet Milliken on new ways to develop the New Holland community, and, he said, having an athletic presence in the area would help with outreach through sports camps and athlete involvement with youth sports.
“I think it’s exciting,” said Schrader.
Brenau’s athletic programs have continually ranked in the top five, nationally, in the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics.
That success, officials said, raises the level of interest in the school.
“They’ve just been doing so well, it raises the profile of the school,” said Schrader. “And we reach a broader segment of potential students by having a successful athletic program. It’s growing now, so we want to take advantage of it.”