OBERLIN, OH—Oberlin College has received an $8 million gift from the Austin E. Knowlton Foundation to create a new, multipurpose athletics complex that is positioned to be one of the finest Division III facilities in the country.
The Austin E. Knowlton Athletics Complex at Oberlin College will be named in honor of the late Ohio businessman who created the foundation through his estate to support colleges and universities throughout the Midwest.
The athletics complex will replace the outdated football stadium with an all-weather, multipurpose field with artificial turf and lights, suitable for nearly every athletics team or club sport on campus. The complex will include a state-of-the-art press box and new grandstands for home and visiting spectators, and a new support facility with home and visitor locker rooms, as well as innovative meeting and social spaces available to the campus community.
A groundbreaking ceremony will take place at 12:30 p.m. Saturday, November 16, at Savage Stadium preceding the Oberlin College vs. Hiram College football game.
Austin E. “Dutch” Knowlton was the owner and chairman of the Knowlton Construction Company, a company his family started in Bellefontaine, Ohio. Through his leadership, Knowlton was responsible for more than 600 major construction projects throughout Ohio and the Midwest, including college and university buildings, hospitals, and libraries. An avid sportsman, he was an original founding partner of the Cincinnati Bengals, having remained the largest shareholder until his death. He was also a minority owner of the Cincinnati Reds in the 1970s, and was instrumental in building Riverfront Stadium.
Eric Lindberg, a trustee of the Knowlton Foundation, says, “Dutch Knowlton would be delighted if he could see this project and the large positive impact that it will have on Oberlin's campus and athletics. He cared deeply about supporting colleges and universities, was a true sportsman, and loved compelling and high-function architecture—so this complex integrates three of his great life passions. We at his foundation are grateful for the opportunity to partner with Oberlin, a school that Dutch knew well and held in the highest regard for its exceptional standards.”
The new complex and its fields will help Oberlin recruit scholar-athletes from Ohio and across the country. In addition to football, the Knowlton Complex will be available to host both men’s and women’s varsity lacrosse, men’s and women’s soccer, field hockey, and club sports.
“We are beyond grateful for the Knowlton Foundation’s vision and generosity,” says Natalie Winkelfoos, Delta Lodge Director of Athletics and Physical Education at Oberlin. “The complex will lend itself as a location to strengthen relationships and connect with the greater community. Without a doubt, it will represent the brilliance of Oberlin College as a whole. The Knowlton Foundation has given us the opportunity to restore tradition while working to foster future successes.”
Knowlton, who gained the nickname “Dutch” in his high school football days, graduated from the Ohio State University with a degree in architecture. In 1994, OSU named its school of architecture in his honor. In addition to his interest in professional sports, Knowlton raised championship American Saddlebred horses, which he showed for many years across the Midwest, and he also raced thoroughbreds. He was a trustee of the Little Brown Jug Society, which runs the Triple Crown of Harness Racing for Pacers in Delaware, Ohio.
Throughout his full and colorful life, Knowlton credited his success to his transformative college experience, and determined to share his life’s wealth to enable similar experiences for future generations of young people.