Bowling Green, Ky. – A long-time corporate supporter of Western Kentucky University has made a $5 million commitment to enhance an expansion and renovation project for the school’s football stadium.
In honor of the gift, WKU will add Houchens Industries to the name of L.T. Smith Stadium.
“We think that this facility at WKU reaches much of the geographic area of our businesses,” said Jimmie Gipson, Chairman and CEO of Houchens Industries. “This stadium is an integral outlet for us to give back to our community.”
Gipson added: “On behalf of the employee owners of Houchens Industries, and in celebration of the vision and commitment of WKU, its staff and administration, we would like to extend this contribution to support the future of WKU, and its ever growing importance to the community of Bowling Green. It is an honor to invest in the future of an institution where the Spirit Does Make the Master.”
The stadium is undergoing a $37.5 million renovation and expansion project and the gift from Houchens Industries will enable WKU to include additional features in the new west grandstand, the building out of the south end zone and enhance the renovation of the existing grandstand, according to Wood Selig, WKU’s Director of Athletics.
“Private support is critical for the future success of our program,” Dr. Selig said. “Successful programs have local corporate leaders such as Houchens Industries, and we are fortunate to have them, with the leadership of Jimmie Gipson and President Spencer Coates, in our community.”
WKU President Gary Ransdell said the University “cannot achieve national competitiveness in the manner our fans expect without significant support from local corporate leaders such as Houchens Industries. With this support, we can, and will, achieve national prominence in our athletic programs and elsewhere.”
WKU Football is in a transition season from Division I-AA to Division I-A and will complete the transition next season and become a member of the Sun Belt Conference in football.
Houchens Industries, the largest 100 percent employee-owned company in the U.S., currently operates businesses in conventional retail grocery, convenience and fuel centers, limited assortment and price impact, hybrid grocery, SONIC Drive-Ins and SUBWAY stores under its food group banners. Houchens also has interests in insurance, manufacturing, construction, paving and stone quarries, trucking, recycling, Web development, tanning supply distribution, and property management. Established in 1917 in Glasgow, Ky., Houchens Industries now services communities throughout a wide variety of trade areas across the U.S., providing the “Necessities of Life” to its 11,000-plus employee owners and customers alike.
At the end of the 2006 season, WKU began a $37.5 million renovation of L.T. Smith Stadium. The renovation includes approximately 5,000 seats in the new west grandstand, which will also house football offices, locker rooms, a weight room and training room. The south end zone will be developed and there will be additional improvements to the existing stadium, including office and classroom space for the Physical Education Department and locker rooms from soccer and track.
L.T. Smith joined WKU in 1920 to organize the Department of Industrial Arts. He developed the first industrial arts teacher education program in Kentucky and was known as the dean of industrial arts education. He coached football in 1920 and 1921 and basketball from 1921-22. He helped form the faculty athletic committee in 1922 and served as chair almost continually until his retirement in 1965.
Academic-Athletic Building No. 2, or L.T. Smith Stadium, was dedicated in his honor on Oct. 26, 1968.