Illinois softball training center
Listen to this article

CHAMPAIGN — The Illinois Division of Intercollegiate Athletics announced Monday it will break ground on a state-of-the-art indoor practice facility for the Illini softball program after receiving a $3 million lead gift from Rex Martin and his daughters, Ashley Martin and Alexis Martin-Klose.

The gift will honor their late wife and mother, Alice Martin. With Board of Trustees approval, the new facility will be named the Rex and Alice A. Martin Softball Training Center. Construction is slated to start in late 2020 with a scheduled finish of December 2021.

“The Rex and Alice A. Martin Foundation and the Martin family make this donation to the University of Illinois in honor of Alice A. Martin,” Rex Martin said in a release. “Alice strongly believed that her University of Illinois MBA Degree changed her life for the better. She wanted to give back to the University in order to give others the same experience that she did. This new softball team indoor facility will give the young women on the team the ability to develop their leadership, teamwork and decision-making skills. These skills will allow them to be successful individuals and be strong contributors to society.”

The 13,000 square foot facility, which will cost a total of $6 million, will be constructed as an addition to the existing clubhouse at Eichelberger Field. It will include a full infield as well as hitting and pitching cages. Other features include a new recruiting lobby, hall of fame, expanded player lounge, increased storage and improved parking.

 “I was ecstatic when I heard the news that the Martin family graciously decided to make the lead donation on our indoor facility,” Illinois coach Tyra Perry said. “The Martins have always been a champion for Illini softball and the new gift will put us in position to attract top recruits to our program. Every present and future Illini softball student-athlete who walk through the doors of the new facility will benefit from the generosity of such a great family.”

This is the second major gift from the Rex and Alice A. Martin Foundation. The family donated $1 million in 2008 to complete additions to the softball complex, which included the construction of the current clubhouse. Illinois softball’s annual team leadership award is also named for Alice Martin.

“This gift is very meaningful to us on many levels. When you see a family coming together as the Martins are to honor the memory of a lost loved one, you feel tremendous responsibility to help celebrate that legacy,” Illinois athletic director Josh Whitman said. “Alice and Rex were instrumental in the foundation of Illinois Softball, and having had the good fortune of knowing Alice myself, I believe there could be no better way for our university to carry her memory forward.

"She was a remarkable woman whose imprint on the coaches and young women involved in Fighting Illini Softball will never be forgotten. We are incredibly grateful to the Martin family and look forward to ensuring that the lessons Alice loved to teach — leadership, strength, empowerment — live on forever in our program.”

Scott Richey covers college basketball for The News-Gazette. His email is srichey@news-gazette.com, and you can follow him on Twitter (@srrichey).

College/Prep Sports Reporter

Scott Richey is a reporter covering college basketball at The News-Gazette. His email is srichey@news-gazette.com, and you can follow him on Twitter (@srrichey).