This month, the University of Pennsylvania launched The Penn Track & Field and Cross Country Campaign for Excellence, an initiative to raise $44 million as part of Penn Athletics’ Game Onward Campaign. Also announced was a leadership gift from Wharton undergraduate alumni and former track athletes David, W’85, and Jane, W’87, Ott.
The centerpiece of the new Campaign is a planned indoor track & field facility to be located at the southeast corner of campus. Once fully funded and constructed, it will be named the Jane and David Ott Center for Track & Field, and will be the only collegiate indoor facility of its type in the greater Philadelphia region.
“The Campaign for Excellence truly signals the start of a new era for track & field at Penn that builds on a legacy of achievement by our athletes dating back to the late 19th century,” said Penn President Amy Gutmann. “Penn has won three dozen Heptagonal team championships and has had eight individual national champions. Thirty-three Penn athletes have medaled at the Olympics, with 16 winning gold. We are profoundly grateful to David and Jane Ott for their extraordinary commitment to Penn Athletics and for this foundational gift, which we anticipate will inspire others to participate in the Campaign. The Ott Center promises to be a significant addition to our Athletics facilities—a state-of-the-art space that will impact the future of sports at Penn.”
The planned 63,000-square-foot structure will be located behind the existing Hollenback Center near the South Street Bridge. Designed specifically for track & field, it will include: a six-lane, 200-meter banked track; an eight-lane sprint track; dedicated areas for field events; and seating for spectators during competitions. Construction of the Ott Center is slated to be completed by 2022.
David and Jane Ott, both Penn varsity track alumni, are passionate about their sport and its place at Penn. “We met while on the track & field team at Penn,” the couple said, “and attribute much of the good fortune we have had since to the qualities we developed and the lessons we learned during practices and competitions. We hope our gift will further enable Penn student-athletes to have the same rewarding experiences as we did.”
For Steve Dolan, Penn’s James P. Tuppeny/Betty J. Costanza Director of Track & Field/Cross Country, the planned Ott Center will be a dream come true. “It will immeasurably enhance Penn’s intercollegiate track & field program by providing a modern venue for year-round training and meets,” he said. “What’s more, the Ott Center will serve as the year-round home for the cross-country and track & field teams, and an indoor warm-up area for the Penn Relays.”
Dr. M. Grace Calhoun, T. Gibbs Kane, Jr. W’69 Director of Athletics and Recreation, sees the benefits of the Ott Center through an even wider lens. “As a former member of my undergraduate track & field team, I remain passionate about the sport,” she said. “I am confident that this new facility will fuel Penn’s ascent as a track & field powerhouse in the East.
“Within the broader Penn community,” she continued, “our goal is to encourage holistic development in the form of physical, mental, and emotional wellness through sport participation. The Campaign for Excellence and the Ott Center will have a positive impact well beyond providing a home for our varsity track & field athletes. When the Center is not in active use by the teams, it will be a welcome resource for Penn students, faculty, and staff for recreation and wellness.”
According to Jane Ott, the Ott Center and The Campaign for Excellence are the perfect ways to unite their affinities for Penn and the sport of track & field. “Track & Field is the greatest sport in the world, with a global presence, broad-based participation, and an inspirational level of diversity among athletes, “said Ott. “Men and women frequently compete on the same stage, in front of the same crowds. Dave and I are honored to use this sport as a platform to provide the opportunity for Penn student-athletes to continue to develop their athletic, interpersonal, and leadership skills.”
David Ott added: “Penn has an illustrious history in track & field. Jane and I believe that The Campaign for Excellence, along with the leadership of Coach Dolan, will lead to an even more successful future for Penn Track & Field.”
“Now is the time for the Penn Track & Field community to come together,” said Kate O’Hern Lyons, C’86, Penn track & field and cross country Board Chair, Athletics Overseer and University Trustee. “With the full support of the University and a generous lead gift, we have the opportunity to securely position Penn Track & Field for even greater success for years to come. To achieve this goal, we need the support of all who have benefited from their Penn Track & Field experience and who want to provide current and future student-athletes with the opportunity to excel.”
The Penn Track & Field and Cross Country Campaign for Excellence is part of the Game Onward Campaign for the Future of Penn Athletics. The Campaign for Excellence aims to make Penn’s Track & Field program largely self-sustaining and further its prominence in the Ivy League. The Campaign seeks to add $2 million to the annual fund, $7 million to the varsity track & field endowment, and $35 million for capital projects. David and Jane Ott’s leadership gift builds on their previous support of Penn Athletics.