JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (Feb. 15, 2013) – With construction complete on phase one of its new baseball stadium, the ETSU Department of Intercollegiate Athletics officially named the facility in honor of primary benefactors Gerald and Sandy Thomas on Friday, during a special dedication and ribbon cutting ceremony at home plate.
Thomas Stadium is the most recent of five new athletics facilities completed over the last nine years, and university officials, city government representatives, athletic department personnel, student-athletes, and community supporters all gathered for this special event prior to ETSU’s 2012-13 baseball season opener against Penn State. The first phase of the 1,200 seat facility was built at a price tag of $3.5 million.
Thomas, who is president and general manager of Thomas Construction, Inc., in Johnson City, said he was honored to give back to the university that has provided so many opportunities in his own life.
"ETSU’s new baseball stadium project embodies much of what makes the university such a meaningful part of my life,” Thomas said. “The higher education I received at ETSU helped lay the foundation for professional and personal achievements later in life. I believe athletics is an important part of the college experience for students, regardless of whether they compete. ETSU is also arguably the region’s most important economic engine, and the growth and success of its athletic programs plays a major role in economic growth.”
ETSU President Dr. Brian Noland praised the Thomas family for their generosity and vision for a better community.
“Gerald Thomas is a builder,” Noland said. “He is a builder of roads, of structures. But he sees those buildings and projects as part of a larger whole. Gerald Thomas builds community. His work constitutes a shared vision of a better, stronger, more progressive region for us all. The stadium at East Tennessee State University that will forever bear the Thomas name is a permanent symbol of the love Gerald and Sandy Thomas hold for their part of the country.”
ETSU President Emeritus Dr. Paul E. Stanton, Jr., said this gift is just another example of the type of selfless giving that has characterized the Thomas family.
“Gerald Thomas is not the kind of person who seeks recognition for himself,” Stanton said. “No matter the task, he gets the job done quietly and efficiently. Throughout his lifetime, he has stepped up to meet a need, whether that meant a new roadway, a church project, or lending his expertise to planning commissions and power boards. For his alma mater, East Tennessee State University, he has met many needs. This new stadium, with all its beauty and amenities, literally would not have been possible without the generosity and vision of Gerald and his wife Sandy. The entire ETSU community is deeply grateful.”
While humility is important to the Thomas family, Gerald said there was a primary mission in his involvement with this particular project and the naming of Thomas Stadium.
“By helping to build and placing my name on the ETSU baseball stadium, I hope to let the university’s alumni world know I did my part to grow ETSU athletics and ultimately grow the university as the region’s higher education leader,” Thomas said. “With other important facilities planned, I urge fellow alumni to step up to the plate and contribute to ETSU’s ongoing pursuit of excellence.”
Special Assistant to the President for Athletics Dave Mullins, who was the program’s director of intercollegiate athletics during the construction of Thomas Stadium, said the completion of this project is just another step in a process that started 10 years ago to reshape the face of ETSU’s athletics program.
“Thomas Stadium is another significant piece of our plan to change the face of ETSU athletics and the ETSU campus by providing state-of-the-art facilities for our student-athletes, coaches, and fans,” Mullins said. “We appreciate the support of the Thomas family and company in making such a difference for our Buccaneer baseball program and our community.”