With $1.5M Gift, Cafaros Help Fill ‘Void’ at YSU

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – Youngstown State University President Jim Tressel approached Anthony Cafaro Sr. six months ago to discuss the university’s need for an intramural complex.

“He came in with drawings, graphics and he logically laid out the situation here,” Cafaro said. “As a YSU grad, I was able to appreciate it.”

Cafaro then discussed the proposal for the sports field with his family and said it wasn’t a difficult decision for any of them. “We’ve been committed to supporting YSU for many years and it was time to show our generosity once again,” he said.

On Thursday, Cafaro and his family announced The Cafaro Foundation is donating $1.5 million as part of the Youngstown State University Foundation’s We See Tomorrow campaign to fund the construction of an intramural sports complex on the north side of campus.

The need for the intramural complex, to be named Cafaro Family Field, came from the greater interest in club sports among students.

“One of the outcomes of having students living on or around the campus is that you need to provide activities and opportunities to get together and do wholesome, healthy things,” said Tressel. “We have grown to the point where we were running out of places for them to do that.”

Enrollment for the fall semester at YSU was up from a year ago as 12,731 students were on campus the first day, marking the third enrollment increase at YSU in the past four years. This year’s freshmen class is 32% larger than four years ago, he added.

The university’s dormitories and apartment buildings are at capacity with 1,264 students total and all three private apartment complexes, including The Flats at Wick, University Edge and the recently built Enclave along Wick Avenue, are at capacity with nearly 1,000 students.

“When you have more students living here, you have to provide the amenities for those students,” Cafaro said. “It’s still a situation where we don’t have the facilities for those who live on campus and this will fill a void in that regard.”

Student participation in club sports is increasing, said Joy Pokabla Byers, director of campus recreation. The department offers eight intramural leagues and hosts several one-day tournaments.

“Over the past few years, YSU has seen a significant growth in club sports with almost 300 students participating in club sports at this time,” she said. “These students will be positively impacted by the addition of this field.”

The Cafaro Family Field will sit at 751 Elm St., across from Cafaro House. When finished, the field will have an artificial turf surface marked for soccer, rugby, lacrosse and other sports, as well as lighting for night games, bleachers and a concession area.

The project is expected to be complete by next August.

“The field will allow us to offer more intramural programs, from one-day tournaments to more league sports, as well as host local and regional club sports competitions,” Pokabla Byers said. “This allows our students to take pride and showcase our university to visiting teams, which is important to the recruitment and retention of our club sports athletes.”

YSU women’s rugby player, Hannah Hall, said the club team has been practicing on the Penguin’s football field even though a regulation-sized rugby field is wider.

“Having this field will allow us to compete with the accommodated regulation size, which is a good opportunity for us,” she said. “Rugby is also an impactful opportunity for the surrounding communities.”

Besides serving YSU’s current students, the field will play a big part in recruiting students to attend YSU from the local school districts and nationwide, said Mark McKenzie, a member of YSU men’s lacrosse club team.

“Lacrosse is considered one of the top growing sports in the nation,” he said. “With the help of this field, we feel we’ll be able to uplift the community with this growing sport.”

This gift from The Cafaro Foundation follows 50 years of support for YSU from the Cafaro family. William M. Cafaro, founder of The Cafaro Co., was a key advocate for YSU becoming a state public university in 1968 and he was one of the founders and one of the first board members of the YSU Foundation.

Over the past 23 years, the Cafaros have made gifts to YSU totaling more than $5 million, including $1 million for the Watson and Tressel Training Site, $1 million to name the Cafaro House residence hall, $250,00 for the Andrews Student Recreation and Wellness Center, $100,000 to establish the Joseph and Betty Nohra Scholarship in nursing and business, annual support for the William and Alyce and the John Cafaro Scholarships, and gifts to help fund the Rich Center for Autism and other scholarships.

The reach of the Cafaro Family Field will go beyond YSU students and be used by visiting club teams, Cardinal Mooney and Ursuline high schools, and be a light in the city of Youngstown, officials say.

“Whoever it is that’s running around out there on that field, it’s going to be a signal, it’s going to be a sign, that the lights are on in Youngstown,” Tressel said. “Good things are happening and this is a place where you ought to want to be.”

Pictured: Eddie Howard, YSU vice president of student affairs, Joy Pokabla Byers, YSU director of campus recreation, Capri, Phyllis and Anthony Cafaro and YSU President Jim Tressel show what the Cafaro Family Field will look like when it is complete in August 2019.

Copyright 2024 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.