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Professional Masters of Sports Administration alumna used her education to lead a facility renovation project

Wednesday, May 18 2016 12:00am

Jane McMahon began working on the $9.6 million Cambridge SportsPlex construction project while in the Professional MSA program.

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Jane McMahon graduated from Ohio University’s Professional Masters of Sports Administration program in 2012. Before finishing her graduate degree, McMahon was already putting her education to use. 

In spring 2011, the Fairfield Park and Recreation Department in Fairfield, IA announced the need to repair the outdoor public pool that had been serving the community for 50 years. As a swim coach for 20 years and Fairfield community member, McMahon didn’t hesitate to jump on board with the project.

McMahon and two community members began the project evaluation. Not long after the initial assessment did they realize there was also a need for a community gymnasium. The city of Fairfield had a long-standing agreement with the school system to use their indoor court facilities, but this facility could no longer support the recent growth in youth sports, women’s sports, and recreational sports within the community. This inspired the team to begin planning for a new facility.

“My personal vision for this facility is to be more than a recreation center. I view it as a meeting place and somewhere to socialize as well as exercise,” said McMahon. “Iowa is very cold in the winter and folks have a tendency to hibernate. This new facility will be a nice indoor escape as well as overflow relief for the school system’s facilities.”

Community members joined forces to form the Fairfield Recreation Facilities Task Force consisting of athletic directors, school principals, lawyers, architects, engineers, and bankers. McMahon became co-chair of the task force and what she calls “keeper of the story”; a skill she learned as a PMSA student.

“Perhaps the on-campus students get a bit more “on your feet speaking” practice, but the online cohort classes really learn how to express business thoughts using the written word. This became my strength for the recreation project. I became the keeper of the story,” said McMahon.

The task force met more than 100 times and put in countless hours of planning to reach their fundraising goal of $10 million. Among many challenges, the task force endured an extensive application process when they applied for the Community Attraction and Tourism grant from the state of Iowa. The grant application process required a subcommittee, headed by McMahon, along with a grant writer to develop a long-term strategic plan including daily operations, estimated costs, drawings of the facility, a list of public and private donors, and more.

McMahon’s business writing skills paid off when the task force was awarded a $1 million CAT grant. The mission of the CAT grant is to be the last contributor into projects that will make an impact in local communities. For the Cambridge SportsPlex project, it did just that.

“As a citizen from a small community, I appreciate the foresight of our Iowa state government to have funds available to be distributed to worthy projects,” said McMahon. “It was a tough, detailed application process. The $1 million grant put wind in our sails at a critical stage of fundraising.”

The task force opened the doors to the Cambridge SportsPlex facility in March 2016 and welcomed the community. As McMahon reflected on her experience, she acknowledged the impact her PMSA education had on the success of the project.

“It has always been on my bucket list to get an MBA, but the part-time PMSA fit my background in a specific way,” said McMahon. “I’m sure it was a difficult decision for Ohio University to offer one of their premier degrees online, but I am certainly glad they did.”