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Kennon Makes Donation to Stadium Project

September 14, 2006 · MT Media Relations
With time winding down for capital campaign donations for a new Middle Tennessee baseball facility, former letterwinner and namesake of the Blue Raider Hall of Fame, Emmett Kennon, has made another major contribution to the athletic department.

Kennon recently pledged $500,000 to the department, with money exclusively for the renovation and construction of a new facility at Reese Smith Field, due to begin in June 2007 and completed in time for the 2008 campaign.

"There comes a time in life when it is payback time to the people who had a major influence on your life, and this university had probably the biggest impact on my life and business," Kennon said.

"I've been in business since 1948 and there have been a lot of decisions made during that time. Whenever I think about those decisions, there always seems to be a flashback to my experiences at Middle Tennessee that influence how I proceed.

"I love the institution and they made it possible for me to get an education when I didn't have much. I love the school and think it's on the right track and ready to explode, really take the next step forward. I'm happy to be a part of the project. It ties into the whole campus and we'll have a facility second-to-none once it's finished."

Kennon is a 1938 graduate of Middle Tennessee, where he lettered in football and baseball, and is a member of the Blue Raider Hall of Fame. He served three years as sports editor for the Sidelines student newspaper and was editor of the Midlander in 1938. An active member of the Varsity Club and a former president (1993), Kennon lettered on the 1937 Blue Raider football team that went 6-1-1 under coach Johnny "Red" Floyd.

Kennon's $1 million gift in March 2002 began the construction of the Sports Hall of Fame and another $500,000 gift finished the building. Jim Simpson, Varsity Club Director, as well as 1220 Exhibits, is currently working to complete the displays within the Hall of Fame, gathering items for the design and construction of exhibits.

James Kennon, Emmett Kennon's grandson, was the architect of the award-winning building bearing the family name.

Emmett Kennon, who founded Kennon Construction Company in 1949, worked for Neuhoff Packing Company from 1938 until July of 1941 when he was drafted in the Army. He was separated from active duty in December of 1945 with rank of Major. The Kennon's have a son, James Kennon, one grandson, James Kennon, Jr., and two great grandsons.

The donation to the baseball project is another major gift by a former letterwinner after Steve Smith's $300,000 and Dewon Brazelton's $250,000 during the annual Groundhog Day Luncheon in February.

Renovation of Reese Smith Field is an ongoing project, with several new features added over the last two seasons.

A new scoreboard and message center were added before the 2005 season, as well as new turf around the dugouts and the addition of FieldTurf circling the home plate area.

A gift from Jeff Hendrix, President of Enterprise Electric, provided the installation of the new lighting system was installed last fall for the 2006 season and included new poles and lights, as well as moving all of the switches to one central location. The light poles were also installed with a new stadium in mind, but the biggest difference is in the amps, which increased the candlepower to a AAA system, meeting NCAA specifications as well as television specs, a much-needed upgrade for the Middle Tennessee program and Reese Smith Field in particular.

A compilation of David Hilton at Southeastern Turf, Lou Warner (dirt) and Bill Marbett at Southern Athletic Fields (materials) graded and sodded the infield last winter, as well, leveling the surface and ridding the grass of hard-to-repair dead spots in front of home plate and the pitcher's mound.

The most visible improvement when fans walk into the stadium these days is no doubt the outfield wall, another much-needed and long-overdue improvement for the facility. The unit includes an eight-foot wall from left-to-rightfield, including a 24-foot high section for a batter's eye in dead centerfield.

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