Bonamego expects Champions Center to help beyond on-field improvements
The Chippewa Champion Center started construction this summer and to Central Michigan head coach John Bonamego couldn't be more happy.
“It means the world to me,” Bonamego said. “It can’t come soon enough.”
In April, CMU Athletics released a full diagram of what the design firm Populous plans do with the Champions Center. A walkway heading to the welcome center will be added leading to new locker rooms, a team meeting room, a new weight room, sports medicine complex and Alumni Center.
There will also be additions to the stadium with a rooftop patio for fans to watch the game from the north end zone.
While all of the additions to the program mean the most to Bonamego — who recently signed a contract with CMU through 2022 after going 21-17 over three seasons in Mount Pleasant — he said there are other perks that come with stadium renovations.
“What it does for recruiting is something I can’t even put into words,” Bonamego said. “Our players deserve to play in the very best facilities. Those things matter when you are looking at a school. I’m just very, very excited to be the first coach here with it.”
Bonamego also touched on some of the recent graduate transfers the school has added such as Marcus Griffin and Shane Morris and how much it helps with those additions.
“It’s great for everyone really, the fans and alumni along with all of the incoming players,” Bonamego said. “We couldn’t have asked for much better than this.”
Junior running back Jonathan Ward agreed with his coach in terms of recruiting.
“Coming out of high school you pay attention to things like that,” Ward said. “It matters. How big the stadium is and stuff because you want to play in a nice big facility like the one we have coming. It definitely is an attention grabber for our recruits.”
Senior linebacker Malik Fountain said even though he will never play in the center, he knows how important it will be for working out and conditioning.
“I’m happy for (CMU) because it will do wonders for their bodys and their minds,” Fountain said. “It will be so good for them to see that. The program is upgrading to more of a Power Five level or Division I level.”
The most recent addition to Kelly/Shorts Stadium was the synthetic turf being added in 2016. Lights were put into the stadium in 2006 and the video scoreboard was added in 2007. Once named the best stadium in the Mid-American Conference by the Sporting News was opened on Nov. 4, 1972. As of 2012, the stadium held 33,885 people.
Bonamego estimated $30 million worth of upgrades to Central Michigan Life last February.
“It’s about time,” Ward said. “It is one of the oldest stadiums in the MAC and I think it is time we updated. Hopefully I can play in it and I love the design of it.”
Bonamego, who is coming off an 8-5 campaign in 2017, said with great things comes a greater sense of responsibility.
“We would love to respond with another great season and really have people understand how hard these kids work,” Bonamego said. “We are all excited for this development to finish and be ready, but we need to take care of business this season with our goal to win a MAC Championship.”
The Chippewas open the season on Saturday, Sept. 1 at 3:30 p.m. on the road versus Kentucky. They will have the first home game of 2018 against Kansas on Saturday, Sept. 8 at 3:30 p.m. from Kelly/Shorts Stadium.