Atkins donation to fund baseball training center

By Meghan Rest, Assistant Sports Editor

Illinois’ baseball program is getting an $8 million upgrade.

Athletic director Josh Whitman announced the construction of the Susan and Clint Atkins Baseball Training Center, scheduled to be completed in the summer of 2021, Tuesday morning during a press conference. The construction of the 26,000 square-foot indoor facility was set in motion by a $3 million donation from the Atkins family.

This donation is the second major donation from the family to the University’s athletic program. Their first gift was a $2.5 million donation which funded the construction of the Atkins Tennis Center by Susan Atkins in memory of her late husband Clint.

“Josh Whitman and Howard Milton came to me with this opportunity, and I couldn’t pass it up,” Atkins said. “The University benefitted us in so many ways and has given the community a wonderful way of life. It not only provides this community with opportunities to educate but also jobs for a working force. I know my husband would be proud that myself, his children, grandchildren and even great-grandchildren are adding to what we started 30 years ago.”

According to Whitman, the project will go in front of the Board of Trustees for approval in January and is set to break ground during the summer of 2020. The project, priced at about $8 million, will take about a year and be ready for use by fall of 2021.

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    The new complex will house a full infield, hitting tunnels, a recruiting lounge and a modern entryway to the baseball field.

    Even though the physical facility is still years away, the announcement itself furthers the goals of Whitman and head baseball coach Dan Hartleb for the program.

    “(The facility) follows our model, something that we’ve used here now time and again: focusing first on our student-athletes’ experience, making sure that we are putting our program in the best position possible to recruit, maintain and develop the finest student-athletes anywhere in the country,” Whitman said. “This facility certainly follows along with that strategy.”

    After 29 years on the Illinois baseball coaching staff and 14 years as head coach, Hartleb said his hope to forward the program is no longer a “pipe dream.” And now, according to Whitman, the Illini will have access to one of the countries most state-of-the-art facilities.

    “We started with a dream a number of years ago to figure out how to continue to elevate our program,” Hartleb said. “As we moved forward through the year, you know it was a pipe dream, and all of a sudden Josh (Whitman) jumps on board and has this vision to help our athletes to develop them to the highest level so that we can win championships.”

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