The Oakland Post

The Lepley Center Project: the O’rena’s upgrade

Out with the Division II and in with the Division I

Michael Pearce and Dakota Brecht

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Oakland University Athletics made the transition from Division II to Division I in 1998, but in the 20 years spent at the NCAA Division I level, practice facilities and amenities have not met the standard other Horizon League schools have set. However, plans are in the works for a new Athletics facility, the Lepley Center.

“It’s kind of something we’ve talked about for a long time,” Assistant Athletic Director of Development Fleetwood Fleming said. “Utilizing that space as an enhancement for some much needed things in Athletics.”

The Lepley Center already exists, but is used for storage. Formerly home of the swimming pool, the facility will be renovated and transformed into a full-fledged Athletics facility. Some amenities that could be added under the renovation project include a practice court for the men’s and women’s basketball teams, a student-athlete leadership academy center for studying and nutrition centers for student athletes.

“In terms of facilities we’ve been working a lot with the office of University Advancement and working through the capital campaign,” Interim Athletic Director Padraic McMeel said. “We’ve been doing our due diligence and we certainly have some facility campaign projects that we would love to see move forward.”

Oakland’s facilities and amenities resemble that of a Division II school, due to the fact that the school underwent an unpredicted jump to the Division I level after the initial building of the O’rena.

“When this arena was built, it was built to be a Division II arena,” men’s basketball Head Coach Greg Kampe said. “This was built for what we thought at the time was a Division II facility. In 20 years, the landscape of college basketball has changed. It has now become a race for who can get the best facilities.”

Other Horizon League schools such as Wright State University have dedicated rooms for watching film, equipped with TVs and movie theater style-chairs. Oakland’s “film room” currently is the visitor’s bench in the O’rena, where the teams sit in the dark and watch film projected onto a white board, which is wheeled out onto the Blacktop.

“I think obviously film is so important to what we do,” women’s basketball Head Coach Jeff Tungate said. “We’d like to watch more film. Having that film room would be a huge benefit to what we’d like to do. We know we need it, and the good thing is the school knows we need it too.”

Administrators have been discussing the facilities and amenities for the last 12 years, and expectations are for the Lepley Center to be constructed in the near future.

“Now what I would say is while we’re in the interim portion of things between directors of athletics, there’s a little bit of walking versus running [pace],” McMeel said. “What I would say is probably the one that is the most important to the entire department of Athletics, just because of its impact to all 320 student-athletes, really would be what we are calling the Lepley Center Project.”

While there is no time table for the start of this renovation project, Tungate feels as if negotiations are as close to becoming reality as they ever have.

“I’m excited right now,” Tungate said. “I think this is a very serious conversation that people are having. I think the school is committed to it, which is the best thing. I think there’s enough out there that this could happen very quickly.”

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