Caleb Schaeffer, Anthony Aretz, Dave Gantt and Tony DeAnda pose at the site of the future Providence wrestling facility. (Courtesy: Josh Wetmore)

(Argo Athletics Release)

GREAT FALLS, Mont. – Earth was moved and history was made at the official groundbreaking ceremony for a new on-campus men’s and women’s wrestling facility at the University of Providence.

School President Dr. Anthony Aretz, Vice President for Athletics Dave Gantt, University Board Members Roger Witt, Les Marsh, and Beth McFadden, Head Men’s Wrestling Coach Caleb Schaeffer, and Head Women’s Wrestling Coach Tony DeAnda, along with the President of the Great Falls Area Chamber of Commerce, Shane Etzwiler, and representatives of LPW Architecture and Sletten Construction each got a shovel full of the dirt that will soon sit below the first new athletics-related building on campus since 1965.

“This is an exciting time for the university. This is the first of hopefully many construction projects over the next 10 to 15 years,” Dr. Aretz said. “This building is important. We want to grow enrollment on this campus. One of the ways we are going to do that is leverage athletics. This is going to be the best wrestling practice facility in this area of the country and in the NAIA.”

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The new facility will be built on the hill above Argo Field and opposite the McLaughlin Center gymnasium on the UP campus. Designed by L’Heureux Page Werner Architecture, a local firm in Great Falls, Montana, the facility will be over 8,000 square feet and will be the new permanent home for both the Argo and Lady Argo programs.

Included in the structure will be a large mat room with two regulation-sized mats, four coaches’ offices, a fully functional athletic training room, and men’s and women’s locker rooms. The mat room will have garage-style doors to allow mats or bleachers to be easily moved in or out of the facility for camps or competitions.
“This signifies that we’re in a growth mode, and it’s not just athletics. Its athletics, driving enrollment to enhance the student body,” Gantt said. “Coach Schaeffer has tried to put this together for multiple years prior to us getting it together finally. It’s an exciting project that has been well conceived.”

The building will be the first separate athletic structure built by the university since the McLaughlin Center was constructed in 1965. With a cost of over $1 million, the new facility is a statement about the school’s dedication towards growth in every area, including athletics.

Having a new building dedicated to wrestling will give both the men’s and women’s wrestling programs some of the best facilities of any wrestling program in the NAIA, and a distinct recruiting advantage over regional and national rivals.

“I’m like a kid in a candy store. I didn’t know if this was going to happen. We’ve been so close but yet so far away in the past. We got a new leadership team and the first thing they said is ‘We’re going to make this happen,’” said Schaeffer who has been coaching at UP for 13 years. “Recruits these days want topnotch facilities to train in. This is a standalone building just for wrestling and that shows just how serious we are about putting our resources into the wrestling community here.”

Moving both teams into their own facility will also free up much-needed locker room space, office space, and more space in the athletic training room in the McLaughlin Center for other teams.

The new facility will also give the school more flexibility and capacity for hosting future wrestling tournaments and camps, though most of the teams’ home events will still be held at the McLaughlin Center. It can also serve as a viable practice space for the school’s spirit squad.

Currently, the teams have been practicing in a makeshift wrestling building just off-campus in what used to be the Bingo Bonanza. While the building offers a large space with room for a whole team to practice and large men’s and women’s restroom, the space is unfinished and not intended for wrestling.

Before that, when the school only had men’s wrestling, the team practiced in a small, padded room in the basement of the McLaughlin Center below the men’s locker rooms. The team moved out of that space when it badly flooded in the summer of 2016.

With the ground broken, the facility is scheduled for completion in mid-May 2018.