116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
CEDAR RAPIDS — The student band played several tunes, including the school fight song. A few hundred fans stood and rhythmically clapped to it.
On this sun-splashed, perfect fall Saturday afternoon, all you needed to complete this picture was some tailgating. And a football game, of course.
That might come eventually. Mount Mercy University has the facility for it now.
The $16-million, Robert W. Plaster Athletic Complex officially was christened in a grand-opening ceremony that included remarks from Cedar Rapids Mayor Ron Corbett and school chaplain Father Tony Adawu sprinkling holy water on the football/soccer field. Also part of the complex are baseball and softball fields.
All are beautiful. Mount Mercy's men's and women's soccer teams played post-ceremony games against Baker (Kan.), its softball team a fall scrimmage against Upper Iowa and its baseball team a scrimmage against an alumni squad.
'The Robert W. Plaster Athletic Complex has changed our campus, our student-athletes and our neighborhood,' said Mount Mercy President Laurie Hamen. 'We are truly overwhelmed with the support of all of our dear friends. Your vision of an extension of our beautiful, beautiful campus at a critical time has come true.'
'It's just a sense of pride,' said Mount Mercy Athletics Director Paul Gavin, who has been at the school as a coach/AD for 26 years. 'The big thing is I'm so happy for our student-athletes and the coaches. Especially folks like (men's soccer coach) Amir Hadzic, who have been around here forever. All of our outdoor sport coaches. They finally get that opportunity to have a true home-field advantage. This is first class, I don't care what level you are talking about. This is a tremendous facility.'
The first athletics contests at the complex actually took place earlier this month. Located on 17th St. NE, the grounds of the old Terex plant, construction began in the summer of 2016.
Mount Mercy's men's and women's track and field teams also will call it home. Perhaps someday a football program will as well.
Gavin said that decision has not been made. As part of an agreement to join the Heart of America Conference, it must come by 2020.
'The big issue is we're near full capacity on campus with students. That's a major player in this,' he said. 'We're going to have to figure out, if we're going to promote growth, where to put all these people. That's 100, 125 extra people.
'As long as I'm AD, if we have football, I want to do it right. I just don't think you can start something out willy nilly. You've got to do it right. That's the type of (sport) where I think if you don't get off on the right foot, it's going to be hard to recover. If we do it, we'll it right. But our board of directors will make that decision. I'm sure there are some financial implications in it as well.'
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