May 6, 2005
LARAMIE, Wyo. -
A $5 million gift from Casper entrepreneurs John and Mari Ann Martin and Mick and Susie McMurry and their families, matched by the state of Wyoming for a total of $10 million, will name the playing surface at War Memorial Stadium, "Jonah Field," and provide the University of Wyoming the funds it needs for construction projects outlined in the Strategic Plan for Intercollegiate Athletics.
In announcing the gift, UW President Philip L. Dubois explained that the name "Jonah Field" recognizes not only the massive natural gas field in Sublette County that made the Martin-McMurry gift possible but also financial contributions to state funding projects, including higher education, made over time by Wyoming's extractive industries.
"Natural gas made this gift possible," said Dubois, "but the generosity of John and Mari Ann Martin and Mick and Susie McMurry, coupled with the foresight of the Wyoming State Legislature in instituting a matching fund program, will make possible many of the enhancements to intercollegiate athletics enumerated in our strategic plan. The ultimate beneficiaries will be our student-athletes and our fans."
The Strategic Plan for Intercollegiate Athletics was approved by the university trustees in September 2003 to position the University of Wyoming for success as a member of the NCAA Division I-A Mountain West Conference. A key element of the plan was to address critical facility needs to strengthen the recruitment of student-athletes and coaches, and to enhance the fan experience in War Memorial Stadium. Among the facilities needs addressed in the plan are repairing the structure of War Memorial Stadium (upper West stands completed in summer 2004); replacing the playing surface at the stadium with artificial turf (underway, with completion in summer 2005); building an indoor practice field primarily for football and women's soccer, but ultimately benefiting all 17 sports at UW ; enhancing the stadium with improved restroom and concession facilities, as well as donor suites; improving women's tennis facilities; and installing an all-weather track (funded through a gift of the Louis Madrid estate and contributions from families and fans honoring the eight UW cross country runners killed in a car accident in 2001).
"Wow, I'm overwhelmed by the generosity of the Martin and McMurry families. This gift, and the many others who have committed to the campaign earlier, allow us to get underway with most of the facilities needs of the strategic plan," said UW Athletics Director Gary Barta. "This summer we are installing the new turf and beginning renovations on the upper east and west concourse areas of the stadium. The new outdoor track will be built next summer.
"The rest of our plans are being finalized, but I can assure you they are aggressive," continued Barta. "We would like to begin construction on the tennis courts, indoor practice facility, and the remaining stadium enhancements in 2006 and have everything completed by 2007. The details of how we accomplish all this will crystallize in the months ahead. Fast- tracking these projects is important to help achieve our goal to return to greatness at the conference and national level.
"The name `Jonah Field' will be a permanent part of the field design for War Memorial Stadium and will be in place for our home opener against Louisiana Monroe on Sept. 10," Barta concluded.
Barta also noted that future plans for War Memorial Stadium include permanent recognition of the contributions made to the state and to the university by Wyoming's extractive industries.
"Susie and I will be the first to admit we are not the biggest Wyoming football fans, but we are big fans of the University of Wyoming and the state of Wyoming," said Mick McMurry "This donation is fueled by Wyoming's rich oil and gas resources. Jonah Field in particular will contribute thousands of jobs and billions of dollars to the citizens of Wyoming during the next decades. Investment in the University of Wyoming football stadium will go hand in hand with the new University Plaza hotel and convention center project. This is an example of keeping the wealth in Wyoming."
According to Ben Blalock, UW vice president for institutional advancement and CEO of the UW Foundation, this gift brings the university to within striking distance of exhausting the $10 million matching fund for intercollegiate athletics established by the Wyoming State Legislature during its 2004 budget session. Another major gift, to be announced shortly, will complete the match. Blalock also noted that, thanks to the generosity of alumni and friends who value the contributions of the University of Wyoming, and to the leadership of President Dubois, the UW Board of Trustees, the Foundation Board, and campaign chairman Sen. Alan K. Simpson, the university's DISTINCTION campaign has already surpassed it's five-year goal of raising $125 million for academic programs and may, with the addition of $58 million in state matching funds, surpass $200 million by the close of the campaign on June 30.
"The generosity of the Martin and McMurry families is just tremendous," said UW Head Football Coach Joe Glenn. "On the one hand, it is so symbolic of the love for this university that convinced me and my staff to come to the University of Wyoming in 2003. But, it's also a gift that will absolutely contribute to building our football program - and many other programs at the university, like soccer, tennis, and track - to where we can compete for conference championships year after year. I can't wait to turn earth for the indoor practice facility, and I sure can't wait to lead your Cowboys onto `Jonah Field' in September."