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College, credit union partner to build new arena

By Staff | Jan 20, 2015

Students at Florida South-Western State College won’t have to go very far to watch their basketball and volleyball teams in action, thanks to the generosity of a local credit union.

The school and Suncoast Credit Union on Tuesday announced an historic partnership to build an on-campus, 75,000-square-foot arena that will house the school’s sports teams, as well as serve as a venue for concerts and be of use to students for recreation and wellness.

As part of that partnership, Suncoast has bestowed $5 million on the school to help build the facility, a record gift in the 53-year history of the school, with the facility that will bear its name.

Dr. Jeff Allbritten, president of FSW, called it an historic moment in the evolution of the school, which happened after months of discussion and due diligence on both sides.

“This gift transforms our dream into a reality that will commence construction this year. Their gift is a partnership and collaboration that will benefit our students and athletic programs and this community for generations to come,” Allbritten said.

The announcement drew oohs and aahs from the faculty and other invited guests, followed by a standing ovation.

Suncoast President and CEO Tom Dorety said the partnership is a perfect match of two outstanding institutions and “a permanent commitment to the students and staff at the school” and more.

“This arena takes commitment to community to an entirely new level. We’re coming together to improve the quality of life in Fort Myers,” Dorety said. “We’re creating jobs, energy, momentum and unlimited opportunities. It’s a real big deal to us.”

Dorety said Suncoast will pursue a community wide initiative to bring a financial literacy component to students and the larger population, with new scholarship funding for students as well.

Athletic Director Carl McAloose said the new facility is a game-changer as far as recruiting coaches and student-athletes.

“For athletics, it adds credibility right off the bat. It puts us on the map immediately and allows us to compete for national championships,” McAloose said. “For the students it will be a recreation center and for the community there will be so many events here, it will be unbelievable.”

The announcement brought to a close the silent portion of the fund-raising effort while also announcing the beginning of the public phase, Allbritten said.

The $20 million arena, of which the renderings, produced by Harvard-Jolly Architecture and Hastings+Chivetta Architects, were also unveiled Tuesday, will be located on school property at the corner of Summerlin Road and Cypress Lake Drive. Groundbreaking is set for summer, with completion estimated for the fall of 2016.

Suncoast Credit Union Arena will host the FSW Buccaneers’ basketball and volleyball teams and a student athletic center. The arena will seat approximately 3,300 fans for sports (3,600 for concerts), and include six skyboxes, a hospitality event center, competition courts that convert into recreational courts, athletic office space and staff, and faculty and student wellness centers, including a weight room.

Florida SouthWestern State College is Southwest Florida’s largest institution of higher education, annually serving more than 22,000 students.

Suncoast Credit Union is the largest credit union in the state, the ninth largest in the United States based on membership and on its $6 billion in assets.