Sommer Center award


Sommer Center contractor honored

Thomas & Marker Construction, the general contractor for Bluffton University’s new Sommer Center for Health and Fitness Education, has been awarded for its work on the project.

The Ohio Valley Chapter of Associated Builders & Contractors recently recognized Thomas & Marker’s efforts on the Sommer Center with its highest honor for excellence in construction, the Eagle Award.

A team from the Bellefontaine, Ohio-based company worked with the university for more than 15 months to deliver the 60,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art facility. Prior to construction, 18,000 cubic yards of fill dirt were imported to make the former flood plain into a buildable site. The team then installed footers measuring 9 feet wide and 2 feet thick. The building’s concrete walls are 16 feet tall and 18 inches thick, and support 153-foot steel trusses that weigh more than 25,000 pounds each.

The Sommer Center provides needed space for Bluffton’s growing academic department of health, fitness and sport science; a 1,500-seat venue, plus locker and team rooms, for intercollegiate volleyball and basketball; fitness and weight training facilities, an indoor walking/jogging track and spaces for the popular intramurals program, all of which benefit all students; a sports medicine center, with an exam room and offices for physicians and trainers; space for physical rehabilitation, including hydrotherapy; dedicated areas for treatment and taping; the multipurpose Reichenbach Room, used for classes, meetings and special events; administrative offices for athletics; and new Athletics Hall of Fame displays.

“Not only are we grateful to have the opportunity to work with some of the best people we’ve ever known,” said Matt Ludwig, project manager for Thomas & Marker, “we are also extremely proud of the quality, efficiency and value built into this building.”

The more than $32.7 million that was raised during a multi-year comprehensive campaign—Extending Our Reach — The Campaign for Bluffton—included the full $14.7 million for the design and construction of the Sommer Center. Gifts to the campaign also support academic programs, student financial aid and the university’s endowment, including endowed funds for faculty research and student scholarships.

“Throughout the project, the people of Thomas & Marker provided value-added services above and beyond the scope of the contract,” noted Kevin Nickel, Bluffton’s vice president for fiscal affairs, in nominating the company for the award. “It is fitting that they’ve helped us achieve a building that truly will ‘Extend Our Reach’ for Bluffton’s students today and all who will come in the future.”

The Sommer Center is named for the central Illinois family—with extensive Bluffton ties—that gave the lead gift for its construction just north of Marbeck Center. A campus master plan adopted by the university’s board of trustees in November 2000 determined both the site and the high priority for the building.

Thomas & Marker’s many building projects at Bluffton have also included Centennial Hall and, most recently before the Sommer Center, summer 2010 improvements to College Hall, Musselman Library and the Burcky Gym locker complex.