Effingham Daily News, Effingham, IL

October 4, 2013

Workmans donate $5 million for new sports complex

Couple also donates $200,000 to library

Tony Huffman
Effingham Daily News

EFFINGHAM — A $6.1 million donation by Dr. Richard and Angie Workman is leading the way for a new 60,000-square-foot sports complex.

Workman, founder and CEO of Heartland Dental Care, announced his plans at Keller Convention Center Friday evening after receiving the Southeastern Illinois Community Foundation 2013 Richard C. Siemer Outstanding Philanthropist Award. Of the donation to the foundation, $5 million will go toward the proposed Richard E. Workman Sports Complex and Wellness Center. The complex, which will be overseen by the Effingham Park District, will be located at the northwest corner of Maple Street, just past Kluthe Memorial Pool.

 “Growing up in this area myself, I'm thrilled to continually give back to this wonderful community,” said Workman. “The people  who live and work in this area are hardworking, honest, friendly and industrious.”

     According to Park District Board President David McDevitt, the proposed complex will be located on a 22-acre lot the city transferred to the park district.

“When someone steps forward with a gift of this magnitude, we as a community, have an obligation to make the project happen,” said McDevitt.

Preliminary plans for the complex include two basketball courts, three full-sized volleyball courts and an aquatic center that will include two pools. One pool will be an eight-lane competitive pool, while the other will be a recreation/therapy pool, said McDevitt. In other areas of the facility, there will be a gym with weights and treadmills, a studio for various aerobic classes, an elevated walking track on the second level and some additional space for a potential tenant.

The donation is being administered through Southeastern Illinois Community Foundation.

“It is an awesome opportunity for the community,” said foundation Director Joedy Hightower. “It's going to be a facility that any person of any age can go and get exercise.”

Still in the early stages, membership rates to the complex have not been set. Hightower did say rates would be consistent with the amenities being offered by the complex. She added that $100,000 promised by St. Anthony's Memorial Hospital will help offer scholarships to families who would like to use the complex but can't afford to do so. Also, the amount charged for membership may change depending on the age of the member and whether the person resides in the park district.

 An additional $2.5 to $3 million will be needed to build the complex. McDevitt added the district is hoping the money will be donated.

"We are going to figure out a way to make this dream a reality," he said.

According to park district Director Jeff Althoff, the district is well-suited to handle the project because “we are in the business of providing recreation to people,” but added “we have to try our best to make sure this doesn't operate at a loss.”

The park district plans to hire a private management company to run the daily operations of the complex.

Hightower said the complex will draw businesses and individuals into the community, as well as offer a place for sports tournaments. She cited the Red Tide swim team as one local sport in which members have to travel great distances to compete.

“One element we hope will pan out is the ability to bring sports tournaments into Effingham,” said Hightower.

Workman also believes the complex will provide another added value to the community.

“Angie and I believe this project is very import to Effingham County,” said Workman. “We believe it will have profound impact on our community, both from the opportunities it will provide for our youth, but also from what it will bring to our entire area in the way of visitors and overnight guests.”

The park district is working with an architect to finalize the layout of the complex in anticipation of a June groundbreaking. Additional details of the complex are slated to become available in the next few weeks.

“We are excited to encourage the rest of the Effingham community to step forward and join us in the effort to see this community vision become a reality,” said Workman.

The Workmans also donated $200,000 Friday to Helen Matthes Library, which has been raising money to renovate the former Fifth Third Bank to become the library's future home.

"I am so grateful to the Workman family," said library Director Amanda McKay.

Tony Huffman can be reached at 217-347-7151 ext. 138 or tony.huffman@effinghamdailynews.com.