Emory & Henry College Charts Growth Plans for its Future along I-81 Corridor and the Region

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Emory & Henry College officials have announced a bold plan to construct two new facilities on property it owns adjacent to Exit 26 off Interstate 81 as the College continues to expand to meet growing demand. Last week members of the executive committee of the College’s board of trustees unanimously approved constructing a new equestrian center and a new multi-sport complex for track and field, soccer and lacrosse. 

“This expansion will not only allow us to build more first-class facilities that complement our renowned academic reputation, it will enable us to expand the Emory & Henry brand along the heavily traveled I-81 corridor where thousands of drivers and potential students pass by daily,” said President John W. Wells.  “With our record enrollment and new student housing underway, transitioning to NCAA Division II and joining the South Atlantic Conference, adding new schools of business and nursing, and expanding programs at our Health Sciences campus in Marion, there is a clear sense of momentum at Emory & Henry,” said Wells.

The new equestrian center on the south side of I-81 would replace the aging facility at Exit 10 that Emory & Henry took over when Virginia Intermont College closed in 2014. “The program has won 21 national championships under the combined E&H and VI banners and is a leader among its college competitors.  A new riding and competition center will allow the successful program to continue to attract top riders, expand to meet growing demand for equine studies majors, and compete on the national stage into the future,” Wells added. The new facility would feature an indoor competition riding arena with spectator seating, outdoor riding arena, multiple paddocks, high-tech classroom space and tack rooms, ample and modern stalls for college horses and boarding for student horses. The facility design is by specialty equestrian architect Joseph Martinolich from Lexington, Kentucky. Plans are being discussed to incorporate the Exit 10 facility for additional equestrian programming.

The multi-sport athletic complex would serve as the new home for Emory & Henry’s track and field program as well as provide competition and practice space for the soccer and rugby teams, and possibly lacrosse in the future. Artificial turf field, lighting, spectator seating, locker rooms, restrooms, and concessions would also be included in the project slated for the north side of Exit 26 that is designed by athletic experts at VMDO Architects from Charlottesville, Virginia. 

It is anticipated that both facilities will host local, regional and national tournaments throughout the year, to attract more people to the campus and the region. 

“Emory & Henry is an economic engine for Southwest Virginia and has been for 186 years,” Wells added. “Many of the students who come to the college remain in the area after graduation to work, start their own businesses, and raise their families,” he said. “We are proud of our place in the region and our obligation to see the college and surrounding communities thrive,” Wells added. 

In recent conversations with state and local government officials, and business leaders, Wells said he remains optimistic about the long-term prospects for the College, the region and its economy. “There is a lot of good news to talk about in the region, whether it is the new Bristol Hard Rock casino and entertainment venue that is coming, the new Meadows Sports Complex in Abingdon, or expanding health care education opportunities in Marion. We want to be good community partners because we all have a stake in seeing our region do well,” said Wells. 

College leaders will begin receiving and exploring a variety of funding sources and opportunities to fuel the new developments.

These two new projects follow on the heels of an announcement by the College last month to build new upper-class apartments to accommodate 144 students off College Drive. Construction of the apartments will start later this spring with students expected to take occupancy in the Spring 2023 semester.

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