August 8, 2013

Roadrunners on the move

By Marty Kirkland

— Dalton State College athletic director Derek Waugh is ready to move on, and he’s taking men’s basketball coach Tony Ingle and others in the athletic department with him.

They’re just moving from one end of campus to the other, but Waugh can’t wait to go.

The school’s athletic department is about to have its first real home since the college officially announced two years ago it would relaunch intercollegiate sports for the first time in decades.

The Dalton State Foundation has given the former Carpet and Rug Institute (CRI) property on College Drive to the Dalton State Athletic Club, a  nonprofit organization, said David Elrod, the director of institutional advancement at Dalton State and the treasurer of the Dalton State Foundation, the school’s private fundraising cooperative organization.

The 15,000-square-foot building sits on five acres just south of the Dalton State campus, and Waugh said the facility will be used by the school’s athletic department immediately. The property and building are valued at $1 million and were purchased by the foundation in July 2012.

Waugh said money from the Mashburn Charitable Trust’s previous pledged donation of $2.5 million to the college — some of which was specifically geared toward the athletic department — will be used to renovate the facility, although he did not know the specific amount that would be spent.

“It really works out great for us, because the building is ready-made for athletics and we’ll turn it into a really nice showpiece,” Waugh said. “We’re really, really grateful to the Dalton State Foundation for the gift of it, and then also the Mashburn Charitable Trust, because they’re putting money toward the renovation of it.”

Waugh said the renovation will be done “as economically as possible,” but that he expects the building to house coaches’ offices, locker rooms, athletic training rooms and an equipment room.

“We’re going to make it pop for recruiting purposes,” Waugh said, also noting that because it will essentially become the southern entrance to campus, the facility will be designed toward being a showpiece for the entire school.

Waugh was hired in early 2012. He said he and senior associate athletic director Richard Skeel, along with several coaches, have been using space on the second floor of the James E. Brown Center, which is at the northern end of the Dalton State campus, as their offices. That space was soon outgrown, he said, so Waugh is grateful for the turn of events that led to the former CRI property becoming a home for the Roadrunners.

“Thank goodness for the CRI, because we would have had to go find a place to rent,” he said.

Elrod said the foundation takes into account what will benefit all of the college’s programs, students and faculty when deciding what to do with something like the former CRI property and that plans were to give it to Dalton State to use as college officials saw fit. However, he said, the current economic strain that operating and owning another building would create for the college — in the wake of state funding cuts in recent years — led to the donation of the property to a private organization that could still benefit the school.

The Dalton State Athletic Club, which has 501 (c)(3) status, will own and operate the building, Elrod said.

“The foundation views this gift of the CRI property to athletics as kind of the fulfillment of now nearly a 30-year expectation from the community that the college get back to intercollegiate athletics in a big way,” Elrod said. “This is one way we could facilitate that. We’re just pleased to advance the entire college through this gift to athletics.”

Since his arrival, Waugh has acknowledged the need for community help and private donations to get the Roadrunners going again. He admitted it would take a combination of Dalton State resources and outside help to make athletics a reality quickly, and that has resulted in a combination of on- and off-campus facilities for the teams that will begin competition this school year as a member of the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics.

For example, the women’s volleyball program will eventually — perhaps by the end of this season — compete on campus in the Bandy Gymnasium, which is being renovated. Until then, they’ll host opponents at Dalton High School and the Dalton Parks and Recreation Department’s Mack Gaston Community Center.

The men’s basketball team will play games at the nearby trade center, the men’s and women’s tennis teams will play at the DPRD’s Lakeshore Park and the golf teams will play at The Farm Golf Club in Rocky Face, a private course.

“We’re really starting to realize our goal, which was to really marry the community and the school as we grow together,” Waugh said. “The way everything’s coming together is absolutely great. ... Without the help of so many in this community, we could have never got to the point where we are today and where we hope to go.”

The volleyball program will become the first team to compete in the school’s new era of athletics when its season begins Aug. 20 at Southern Wesleyan University in Central, S.C. The cross country teams begin competition next month, while men’s basketball opens its schedule in October and golf and tennis teams will begin play in the spring.

“I have really just been thoroughly impressed with the job that our coaches have done,” Waugh said. “I think we’re going to be competitive in all sports, and given the time frame they were allowed to work in, filling entire teams is a testament to their hard work and acumen.”