graphic with words "building bethany - Improving Activity Spaces at Bethany Lutheran College"

Building Bethany

Why Build? Why Now?

Bethany Lutheran College is growing with recent enrollment trends breaking records. The incoming class of students for fall 2021 was the largest in the history of the institution with the total enrollment setting a new record of 800 students.

And while the student population grows at Bethany we are faced with crowded recreational spaces and outdated facilities for our athletic teams.

The Sports and Fitness Center is Bethany’s primary recreational space for students and athletic teams. It is a combination of a gym that is nearly sixty years old and an addition built over twenty-five years ago when the number of varsity teams numbered just eight. Today, there are seventeen NCAA DIII programs offered for Bethany athletes. 

The College is faced with the reality that renovation and expansion are necessary for the needs of athletics, student recreation and fitness options, and for health-related academic programs. 

Bethany Lutheran College is seeking the support of alumni and friends to assist in the renovation and construction of new recreational facilities, which will replace and enhance the stressed and overused existing spaces.

The Building Bethany Campaign will be completed in five phases.

Phase 1 - COMPLETE

Relocate Baseball Field

In order to move forward with the many facets of the Building Bethany Campaign, a complicated decision about the future of the storied, on-campus baseball field had to be made. Thinking about the history and memories at Bethany Field only made the conversation more difficult.

View of ISG baseball field from left field bleachers with spectators watching the game

The Bethany Baseball team now practices and plays at ISG Field a few short blocks from campus.

Without a doubt, a baseball field on the campus has advantages. At the same time, the size and scale of the projects facing the College limited the options for a new field. Looking at all possible scenarios, the most attractive, cost-saving solution ultimately involved moving the team off-campus to the city-owned ISG Field conveniently located just blocks from the Bethany campus.

Bethany is the priority tenant at the community ballpark during months of March, April, and May allowing the team to both practice and play its home baseball schedule on a field that features all-weather turf, excellent locker room facilities, and lights for night games.

Phase 2 - COMPLETE

Artificial Turf Field

The second phase of the Building Bethany Campaign saw the addition of a new lighted, artificial turf field with a modern press box, bleachers, and aesthetic improvements to the campus athletic complex. This project ensured the College will have a safe, consistent playing surface for both athletic teams and intramural activities.

bethany soccer field from above with campus buildings in background

The new artificial turf field was installed in 2019 and is known as a premier facility for the region.

An artificial turf surface requires minimal resources and maintenance. It also eliminates the use of potentially harmful pesticides and fertilizers while saving thousands of gallons of water each year. These savings free up funds for academic expenses. In addition to the savings, Bethany teams are able to keep a consistent schedule as the artificial turf field reduces the need for rescheduling of rainy-day practices and matches.

The College will also help to fill a community need with the new facility. While Bethany’s teams and students will be the primary beneficiary of the new field, the Mankato community will also have the opportunity to utilize the versatile playing surface for select events.

Phases 3 and 4 - In Progress

Activity and Wellness Center

The demands on Bethany’s recreational facilities have outpaced the College’s ability to provide adequate, viable options for students seeking fitness and leisure opportunities, the needs of the athletic programs, and the academic needs of our exercise science program and various physical education courses.

Currently, students compete with athletic teams for time to use fitness and workout facilities. Hurdlers and relay teams practice their skills in the hallways of the Sports and Fitness Center. The baseball and softball teams spend the majority of their spring practicing on a wood floor in a gym that is smaller than most high school facilities.

A new activity and recreation center will provide spaces for a variety of uses for the entire student body. The facility will house a six-lane track, jumping spaces, artificial turf infield, and drop down netting to divide the space for multiple user groups and purposes at the same time. These amenities will alleviate pressure on the existing Sports and Fitness Center and will provide much needed spaces for use by classes, students, and athletes alike.

Colleges are increasingly placing an emphasis on student wellness and recreation programs due to the positive effect on enrollment and retention.

An industry publication about campus recreation once stated “…a significant number of potential students consider the availability of a quality campus recreational sports program as a very important factor in making the final decision for their college of choice,” and “…opportunities to participate in intramural and recreational sports are of significantly greater importance to prospective college students than are top-ranked national teams or big-time athletic programs in major sports.

Bethany Lutheran College Student Activity Center rendering from Marsh Street

Artist rendering of the new Bethany Activity and Wellness Center.

Today, Bethany’s current recreational spaces are inadequate for the demands placed on them by intramural use, athletic teams, and student fitness. Building a new wellness center will allow for increased usage by the entire campus community and will provide a positive impact on enrollment.

Construction Progress

Site preparation is underway. You can view a webcam of the site to see current progress!

This video shows a video rendering of the new Bethany Activity and Wellness Center.

This video shows construction progress as of April 19, 2022, of new Bethany Activity and Wellness Center.

Construction Photos
Construction of Bethany Activity and Wellness Center, Mankato, Minnesota

Phase 5

Younge Gymnasium

While progress has been made with Phases One and Two of our recreational facilities upgrades,  Bethany’s activity spaces and athletic facilities are in need of an extensive renovation and expansion to accommodate our Vikings athletic programs and intramural activities, and to alleviate the pressure placed on them due to the nearly eighteen hours per day of use.

Rendering of Younge gym renovation: light wood floor; students playing basketball and crowd in the bleachers

Artist rendering of updated Younge Gym.

As part of the Building Bethany Campaign, the College also plans to renovate the Ron Younge Gymnasium in the Sports and Fitness Center. Little has changed in the gym since it was built in 1959. In fact, the original wood floors (60 years old) and bleachers are still in use today. The aging floor sits atop a concrete base with a surface that isn’t safe for extended use by athletes and students alike.

During winter months teams practice on that original wood floor and Bethany’s intramural program uses the gym for many events and games. At certain times, six teams are competing for gym space on any given day, leaving intramurals and general student gym use to late in the evening. The renovation will provide an improved playing surface for use by the entire campus community.

Your Invitation to Support

An engaged campus that has excellent facilities will certainly lead to an appreciative student body, thereby increasing interest in Bethany and higher retention of enrolled students. The net effect is that Bethany Lutheran College will be able to share the One Thing Needful with more students who enroll as freshmen, and will lead to more satisfied students who remain at Bethany until graduation. In addition, groups and individuals from the Mankato region will use the new space for community events. 

These new spaces will undoubtedly lead to better visibility and opportunities for Bethany Lutheran College on a variety of levels. The College will have the opportunity to demonstrate its mission and purpose to a broader community base.

Please join us in “Building Bethany!”

For information and to support, please contact:

Bruce Gratz, Vice President of Institutional Advancement
Email Bruce  |  507-344-7367

Christopher Kind, Director of Development
Email Christopher  |  507-344-7862

Art Westphal, Chief Advancement Officer
Email Art  |  507-344-7375

Jake Krier, Manager of Alumni Relations and Annual Giving
Email Jake  |  507-344-7519