The University of Houston-Victoria recently received a gift of 65 acres of land, valued at $820,000, the largest donation ever made in support of UHV Athletics and the second-largest in university history.
“Last fall, the Bennett-Wood family expressed interest in making this very special gift to the university, and we couldn’t be more grateful to the family for their generosity,” said Vic Morgan, who recently retired as UHV’s ninth president. “I appreciate the family for this amazing contribution and realtor Lee Swearingen for helping us throughout the process. This is a major milestone for UHV.”
The 65 acres of land are conveniently located off Business Highway 59 on Big Bend Road near the Victoria Regional Airport, about four miles from the university’s main campus. The gift will allow the university to further establish and expand its athletics program and will provide a place to build its own athletics complex including competition and practice fields for existing sports, a training center, some offices and facilities for potential additional sports. Funds will need to be raised to build facilities. The facilities will help alleviate the overuse or scheduling conflicts the Jaguars have faced. Now, UHV will be able to have its own sports fields.
“The future of UHV athletics will be changed forever with this gift,” UHV Athletics Director Ashley Walyuchow said. “It will transform the program as the possibilities are endless.”
Higher education is important to the Bennett-Wood family, and this gift will help carry on the family’s legacy, Christopher Bush, family member and a spokesman for the donors, wrote in a statement.
“Education is vital and important for community stewardship, and Victoria and the University of Houston-Victoria are a perfect match,” Bush said. “This project will allow Victoria to keep the present momentum of planned and sustained growth moving forward for years to come.”
A concept has been drawn up for the athletics complex with plans to include concession stands and restrooms, parking lots, locker rooms, storage and retention ponds, along with facilities for baseball, softball and soccer. The university is working on plans for the possibility of tennis, track and lacrosse as potential sports in its future.
The Jaguars, in their 11th year of athletic competition, have flourished with a successful program that includes several conference championships and trips to the NAIA Championships in the sports of baseball, softball, golf and soccer, Walyuchow said. The UHV men’s soccer team wrapped up the fall with its best season ever, winning its first-ever Red River Athletic Conference championship and earning its first berth to the NAIA Opening Round Tournament. The softball team claimed its first RRAC tournament title, and many athletes earned recognition on the national, conference and local level. Through the years the Jaguars, and the university, have received tremendous support from the community.
“UHV is making great strides every day, and contributions to athletics will help us continue that growth,” new UHV President Bob Glenn said. “The Crossroads community has shown UHV overwhelming support since its founding, and I look forward to seeing its continued and increased support.”
The university has made progress becoming a destination university, and adding new facilities, curriculum and sports programs will help attract new students, said Wayne Beran, UHV vice president for administration and finance. Beran has been with the university for more than 20 years and has seen the university in all its development stages. Athletics, especially, can contribute to increased enrollment, he said.
“We want students to have all the amenities that will provide a college atmosphere on campus and throughout the community,” Beran said. “This athletics complex will be key to getting students we wouldn’t otherwise attract. With the community’s help, we can make the athletics complex happen and continue to pave the way for the future of the university and Victoria.”
Last fall, the university announced the public launch of UHV Here, We Go, a major, comprehensive fundraising campaign with a goal of $12 million by 2020, said Jesse Pisors, UHV vice president for advancement and external relations. All gifts to UHV, including this one, will count toward that goal.
“This donation is truly transformational for UHV and allows us to plan our dream athletics complex,” Pisors said. “I am so grateful to the Bennett-Wood family for their visionary philanthropy toward UHV, and I am confident that we will find the continued support we need to build the future home of UHV Athletics over the coming years.”