April 27, 2006
The Baylor Board of Regents at its April 21 spring meeting authorized the construction of a new facility off of University Parks Drive for the university's women's intercollegiate equestrian program.
The Willis Family Equestrian Center, named for Baylor graduates Richard (1981 and 1982) and Karen (1985) Willis of Colleyville who provided the lead gift for the project, will be constructed near the Baylor campus.
"We are grateful to Richard and Karen Willis for their generous financial support and enthusiasm for this project," said Baylor Director of Athletics Ian McCaw. "The Willis Family Equestrian Center will afford Baylor equine student-athletes one of the nation's finest collegiate competitive facilities. The equestrian program has exceeded our expectations in its first year and we look forward to it achieving even greater success in the future."
The 45,000-square foot facility will include a covered riding arena with spectator seating, more than 20 stalls to house the horses and restroom facilities for Baylor's newest intercollegiate athletics team, women's equestrian.
"The Willis Family Equestrian Center will be a great recruiting tool for us," said Baylor coach Ellen White. "Having our own facility will allow us to practice in great conditions and have the opportunity to host competitions. Our equestrian center will really be appealing to recruits."
Baylor has enjoyed an outstanding rookie season in the sport, finishing eighth at its first-ever Varsity National Championships hosted by New Mexico State University in Albuquerque, N.M. The Varsity Championships is an invitation-only tournament whose participants are determined by a Selection Committee. Baylor was the only first-year program invited to the 2006 championships.
Women's equestrian is the Big 12's fastest-growing sport. Since 1999, teams have been added at Texas A&M, Oklahoma State, Kansas State and Baylor.