Former CU Professor/Coach Holding Public Meeting Wednesday to Stop Tippin Gym Renovation Project

| October 31, 2017

CLARION, Pa. (EYT) – With Clarion University’s Tippin Gym project still in negotiations, a retired Clarion University professor and coach is holding an open public meeting at 7:00 p.m. on Wednesday, November 1, at the Clarion Free Library for anyone interested in stopping the renovation project and instead having the university build a brand new facility.

The meeting, which will be held in the first-floor meeting room by Norb Baschnagel, is for anyone who is interested in “immediately stopping” the upcoming renovation of Clarion University’s Tippin Gym, having the university “purchase” the Old (Owen Illinois) Glass plant (27 acres) and “building” an athletic complex, stadium, track and athletic fields “second to none in the PSAC Conference so that Clarion University will become No. 1 in the Dixon Cup (the system used to determine the best overall athletic program in the PSAC) and restore our athletic program to national honors.”

In 2008, the Pennsylvania legislature earmarked around $45 million to either the renovation of Tippin Gym or the building of a new gymnasium at Clarion. After preliminary discussion to build a new gym under then-president Joe Grunenwald, Grunenwald’s successor, Karen Whitney, elected to renovate the gym instead of building a new one.

Since then the project has had many starts and stops but could be as close to starting than at any other point since 2008 according to the Pennsylvania Department of General Services.

“We are very close,” Tony Thompson, Spokesperson for DGS, told two weeks ago. “To be able to give a concrete deadline is not possible, but we believe in the near future. We believe we are having very successful negotiations, but it is requiring some redesign work.”

Thompson believes the negotiations could be finalized by early November, which would fit into a university announced time to stay in Tippin Gym until Thanksgiving despite originally moving out of the gym in late April/early May.

“It is just that, an estimate,” Thompson said.

Baschnagel, a retired full professor of Health and Physical Education at the university, who spent 39 years in the classroom as well as eight years as the head women’s tennis coach and eight years as the assistant men’s basketball coach, has also started a petition to stop the renovation and instead buy land at the old glass plant, although it isn’t known how much land is actually available at the site after the Miles Brothers purchased at least some of the property for a seven-pad Glassworks Business Park.

In the petition, Baschnagel outlines a number of reasons why the renovation should be stopped and a new gym should be built including what he considers a serious safety issue for the Clarion University men’s and women’s swimming and diving teams.

“The Clarion University Athletic Department does not have a realistic contingency plan for the women’s and men’s swimming and diving teams while Tippin Gym is being renovated because the nearest swimming and diving facilities would be the Oil City High School, Grove City College, and Youngstown State University,” Baschnagel wrote in the petition.

“The CUP men’s and women’s swimming teams are planning to practice at 5:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m. every day at Oil City High School to be competitive in the PSAC. To jeopardize the health and lives of the swimming coaches and swimming teams at (4:00 a.m.) on Route 322, especially during the winter months, is not wise or realistic. Spending all of that time on the road going to practice is time that is spent away from them getting sufficient rest and study. Some swimming team members have quit the team already. The University is waiting for a disaster to happen by expecting the teams to travel Route 322 every day at 4:00 a.m. for 5:00 a.m. practice.”

Baschnagel also pointed out what he considers is a bad foundation and a bad mold issue in Tippin Gym.

“The entire facility has a bad foundation because, for many years, water has been coming up through the racquetball courts, the swimming pool has leaked and mold has been growing in the basement, showers, and bathrooms,” Baschnagel wrote. “Mold is very difficult to get rid of and can cause students and community people who use the facility to get very sick.”

Baschnagel believes that in addition to building a state-of-the-art facility, there is another benefit to not renovating Tippin.

“Tippin Gymnasium should be bulldozed and made into a parking lot for the Marwick-Boyd facility,” Baschnagel wrote. “(That) would be very accommodating for handicapped people trying to see events in Marwick-Boyd (which holds many university theater productions). The current parking lot, across (the street) from Tippin, poses much difficult for handicapped people to safely cross the street for safe access to Marwick-Boyd.”

Baschnagel also believes that having other facilities, including the football stadium and baseball and softball fields on campus, is a benefit to the student population.

“Constructing the new athletic complex on campus at the old glass plant site will bring Reinhardt student housing complex into play and both the students and student-athletes would not have to go nearly a mile to see a football, soccer, baseball, softball, or track meet,” Baschnagel wrote.

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