Collaboration makes $20 million in Mount Vernon Avenue improvements possible

Written by Samantha Scoles, Coordinator of Communications/PR, Mount Vernon Nazarene University

In 1966, Mount Vernon Nazarene College and the current campus of Mount Vernon High School/Middle school were cut from the cloth that was once Columbus Delano’s Lakeholm Farm. Fifty-three years later, pieces of that fabric are being woven back together in a progressive partnership with benefits reaching beyond the classroom.

The Gateway Project at the Mount Vernon High School/Middle School campus will include a new sports Field House, a bus garage and will extend Yellow Jacket Drive to Cougar Drive. Mount Vernon Nazarene University will build a Soccer and Lacrosse Stadium and Community Soccer Fields while the city of Mount Vernon will replace the Mount Vernon Avenue Bridge and connect the Kokosing Gap Trail with Memorial Park and MVNU. To make all of these projects work, entities have been working together to re-imagine land usage and partner for shared utilization of facilities for students and the community.

The flurry of activity that will come as these four construction projects become a reality will position the university and the school district for the future, but will also provide a boost to the area’s marketability for new industry and residents.

“We are always in the market to help drive business growth in Knox County and land new companies. That work is assisted by the fact that you have world-class facilities because it makes recruitment that much easier,” said Jeff Harris, executive director of the Knox County Area Development Foundation.

While individual facilities are not the lone draw to expanded economics, Harris explains it is the sum of the parts such as Ariel-Foundation Park, plus the Woodward Opera House, plus a thriving Industrial Park, plus the athletic expansion at MVHS and MVNU, plus a growing hospital — that add up to one community being more attractive over another.

“They will serve as deal clinchers,” said Harris. “Envision someone considering an investment in Mount Vernon but they are on the fence. They start going through the tally sheet. Having these new facilities allows another checkmark on the Mount Vernon side of the ledger. It makes that decision more in our favor.”

What’s even more impressive than the structures that will be built, is the collaboration between local entities to make this all possible. From the bridge and bike path project to the athletic facilities, conversations and cooperation have included city school district leadership, Jacket Boosters Inc., MVNU, city officials, Knox County Foundation, the YMCA, Mount Vernon Soccer Association, ADF, Mount Vernon City Council, Mount Vernon City Schools Board of Education and a long list of advisors and donors.

“What’s unique about this community is the way the people love to collaborate and share resources,” said William Seder, Superintendent of Mount Vernon City Schools. “I strongly believe we can do things together and be fiscally responsible for the betterment of everybody. Donors were initially excited about the Gateway Project and there was an even greater excitement about the potential to share and make this even more of a community resource.”

“We have multiple projects happening in this area so we have been meeting together to make sure our projects can look for efficiencies and collaboration opportunities. This is to ensure all of our work mutually enhances Mount Vernon Avenue,” said James Smith, Vice President for University Relations for MVNU.

Knox County Foundation has already pledged funds to the Field House and the Community Soccer Fields. In addition, it continues to provide guidance to assist in optimizing fundraising endeavors.

“This multi-faceted project is one more example of the vibrancy of our Knox County community,” said Sam Barone, executive director of Knox County Foundation. “The Foundation is delighted not only to support components of the Gateway Project, and MVNU’s soccer and lacrosse complex, with grants from its unrestricted funds, but also to reprise a role it has played many times as a central receiving point for contributions to the project from the community. In this capacity, we can facilitate gifts of stocks and bonds, and donor-advised funds gifts, which are often complicated for school systems and colleges to process.”

Those interested in financially supporting the Field House can do so by contacting Tiell at or 614-679-6509; Justin Sanford, Athletic Director, Mount Vernon City Schools at or 614-580-09000; or mail donations to Jacket Boosters Inc., P.O. Box 776, Mount Vernon, OH 43050. Online donations are accepted by visiting and clicking “Donate Now.”

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