Column: SMC builds ‘fieldhouse of dreams’ in 15 months

Published 9:36 am Sunday, August 28, 2022

We have all heard the phrase, “if you build it, he will come.” The line comes from one of the all-time great sports movies, “Field of Dreams.”

At Southwestern Michigan College, thanks largely to SMC Board of Trustees Chairman Tom Jerdon and SMC President Dr. Joe Odenwald, the Dowagiac campus has its “fieldhouse of dreams.”

On Saturday morning, Jerdon and Odenwald saw their dream come true as the Roadrunner volleyball team debuted in the 1st Source Bank Fieldhouse. They built it, and they came. In just 15 months, Southwestern Michigan College dreamed it and built it. They came in the form of students, parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles. They came in the form of community members, all wanting to see the first sporting event held at Southwestern Michigan College in 26 years.

It was a spectacular day for the home debut of the Roadrunner volleyball team. Southwestern split a pair of matches with rival Lake Michigan College and North Central Michigan College, one of the state’s newest junior colleges. I can tell you everyone got their money’s worth.

Oh wait, all SMC home sporting events are free for the inaugural season of volleyball, men’s basketball, and women’s basketball.

I had the pleasure of covering Roadrunner athletics when I began working for Leader Publication in the mid-1980s. I cried the day Southwestern announced it was dropping all athletics. I cried again when I got a phone call from Tom telling me that sports were coming back after 25 years, starting with cross country, one of the original sports that put Dowagiac on the map nationally.

There were no tears shed Saturday morning. Instead, they were replaced with a feeling of overwhelming satisfaction to see that the school I once attended and my daughter graduated from has completely renovated the campus and returned athletics to a community that loves its sports teams.

That was made evident by the crowd that got out of bed early on a Saturday morning, made the short trip out to the college and cheered on their Roadrunners. I cannot remember the gym being as loud as it was Saturday. It didn’t matter if SMC was ahead or behind; the crowd’s roar was deafening, and the energy inside the fieldhouse was electrifying.

I look forward to spending many nights at the fieldhouse inside the Charles O. Zollar Building, as we older folks know it as. I cannot wait to come to the next volleyball match when students have moved onto campus and begun taking classes because I know they will come out and support their new sports teams.

If Saturday is any indication where there was a small, but mighty student section, then things will be rocking from the beginning until the end of each match and game. Once the pep band comes together and brings that energy to the facility and the Ladybirds, SMC’s Dance Team starts performing, it should be quite the experience.

I want to thank Dr. Joe and Tom, as well as everyone else involved with reviving the athletic programs at SMC, for their hard work and dedication. A lot has been accomplished in just 15 months. Just wait until those teams become seasoned veterans. The sky is the limit.

“If you build it, they will come.” Boy, did they come. I expect even more to come as word of mouth sings the praises of what has been accomplished. To all the Roadrunners, current and alum, you should be very proud of your school.


Scott Novak is sports editor for Leader Publications. He can be reached at