Well before initial renderings of the Chippewa Champions Center were underway, Michael Franckowiak and Gay Ebers-Franckowiak took a lead role on the project that will transform Kelly/Shorts Stadium.
The couple was honored at a 2016 Central Michigan football game for their $1 million commitment to the project.
Michael was the quarterback and most valuable player of the 1974 CMU football team, which finished the season as the Division II national champions. Gay and Michael both graduated in 1975 and flourished on Wall Street – Gay as a managing director at Morgan Stanley before she retired in 2008.
Throughout their professional careers, Gay and Michael remained in touch with Central Michigan, and they became close with broadcaster Dick Enberg, a 1957 Central Michigan graduate who frequently returned to Mount Pleasant to inspire students.
Enberg, whose voice carried the 2017 CMU pregame football video, sadly died in December yet his love for his alma mater lives on.
"The first time we met the late Dick Enberg, he turned around and said to us, `I like people who give back,' " Gay said. "After seeing our name on the donor board in the Events Center, we wanted to do more. It had a huge impact on both of us."
The Chippewa Champions Center will replace the current locker room building in the north end zone of Kelly/Shorts Stadium. This multi-use, game-changing facility will offer diffuse benefits to the entire campus and serve as the cornerstone of the university's Fire up for Excellence capital campaign.
CMU Associate Vice President and Director of Athletics Michael Alford said the current vision includes a new football locker room and rehabilitation center for all 475 CMU student-athletes, team meeting space and offices for football staff and a weight room. In addition to its benefit to athletics, the Champions Center will house meeting spaces, an alumni center and offices housing the CMU Advancement team. The year-round facility will serve as a One CMU center for events for several university alumni boards and other groups.
The Chippewa Champions Center will also have a profound impact on the game day environment in Kelly/Shorts Stadium by offering fans premium, loge box seating and multiple VIP hospitality spaces.
"The Chippewa Champions Center is an important milestone for our football program, and it will truly put a big smile on our faces upon its completion," Gay said. "We sincerely hope our contribution will encourage fellow alumni to give back."
President George E. Ross and CMU Vice President of Advancement Robert Martin launched the public phase of CMU's $100 million Fire up for Excellence capital campaign on April 21 in McGuirk Arena.
Gay and Michael were among the hundreds who attended the invitation-only event. Before he passed in December, Enberg served as the honorary chair of CMU's national steering committee for the capital campaign. Gay is a former CMU Development Board member and is on the national campaign steering committee.
"When Michael and I reflect upon our lives and what tugs at our heart strings, it is Central Michigan University," Gay said. The 1974 football season and the pride we felt becoming national champions is unforgettable. However, CMU also gave us something else: It gave us the platform for success.
"We have watched our alma mater evolve into a major university over the last 40 years," she said. "Football allows Central Michigan University to showcase and highlight the success of its athletes and students both on and off the field."