CANTON  Anyone traveling along the stretch of U.S. Route 62 that kisses property Malone University owns can see the large brick band rising from the ground and mounds of earth being moved beyond the wall.

That is Pioneer Park, Malone’s $7.5 million multiple-field recreation and athletic complex. Officials, coaches and donors were present last summer for a ceremony announcing the development, the single largest in Malone history.

Pioneer Park will feature a lighted, all-season baseball field that will become the home field for the Malone Pioneers, who have not had their own field for several years. Two other multipurpose fields will be installed for soccer, lacrosse, softball and football, as well as for intramurals, club sports and recreational activities.

A practice football field and natural-grass soccer field now sit on the university-owned property.

“When Pioneer Park is finished, it will be the best (NCAA) Division II complex in the country,” Malone baseball coach Tom Crank said.

The university’s football team will practice on the new fields, while continuing to play games at Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium.

Community asset

Malone President David King said Pioneer Park will be an asset not only for Malone, but also for the Canton community.

He said the university has talked with officials from the Pro Football Hall of Fame about using the fields for the Hall’s summer athletic programs. He noted that Malone could provide the athletes and their families with a low-cost housing option in its dorms.

“Pioneer Park, from the very beginning, has been much more than just about our programs; it has been about the larger community,” King said. “We take seriously our location and the opportunities and responsibilities that come with our location.”

Donors honored

Mike Thompson Sr., chairman and president of Montrose Auto Group, is one of the two major donors supporting Pioneer Park. He gave more than $1 million to construct the baseball facility, and Canton-based DeVille Developments has donated more than $1.5 million and more than 150,000 cubic feet of soil to be used for the project.

King said even though neither of the donors graduated from Malone, he was recognizing them as honorary alumni.

“Their Malone experience may have started a bit later, but it will continue,” King said. “They are part of the family.”

Malone spokesman Timothy Bryan said the university will continue to seek the additional funds it needs to complete Pioneer Park as well as additional money to upgrade the softball team’s current field. Future plans call for reorienting the field so home plate is located to the north and adding an all-season turf.

Malone has embarked on a $25 million capital campaign, dubbed “A Bolder Vision,” that also includes such projects as renovating Cattell Library, upgrading the technology at the Johnson Center, improving a student quad outdoor recreational space, enhancing the musical department and increasing the university’s endowed scholarships.