Niagara University has received a $1 million gift from a 1966 alumnus to transform the experience at its athletic
contests and other university events, while presenting a plethora of academic, hands-on, experiential learning opportunities for students.
The generosity of Bill McKnight, president of Automated Petroleum and Energy Co.
, and his wife, Kathy, will allow the university to purchase and install three high-definition LED video boards in its athletic arenas (two in the Gallagher Center and one in Dwyer Arena), and establish a mobile production trailer to create content that meets the production standards of major television networks, including ESPN.
Each of the upgrades will offer communication studies
, sport management
and other applicable majors practical experiences in gameday presentation, including roles as camera operators, technical directors, assistant directors, graphics producers, video and replay operators, and sideline reporters.
"We are extraordinarily grateful to Bill and Kathy for making an investment that will revolutionize the in-game experience for our fans and student-athletes, and further enhance the experiential learning environment that is a trademark of a Niagara University education," said the Rev. James J. Maher, C.M., NU president. "This gift helps us elevate the outstanding quality of our academic and athletic programs to new heights."
New video displays in the Gallagher Center and Dwyer Arena will showcase in-depth play-by-play game details and instant replays in real time, a critical component of the gameday experience at top-tier Division I facilities. They will also enable NU to generate revenue through corporate partnership recognition and expand the benefits of hosting other university events in these facilities.
Meanwhile, upgrading the university's broadcasting equipment supports the athletic department's goal of delivering content that can be aired regularly on ESPN, ESPN+ and ESPN3, the sports entertainment company's live multiscreen network. ESPN3 annually delivers thousands of exclusive sporting events online and via mobile applications such as WatchESPN.
"These projects are critical to our efforts to provide an elite experience for our students, athletes, coaches, staff and fans," said Simon Gray, NU's director of athletics. "These improvements will also offer opportunities to grow our brand, continuously engage alumni, and further position Niagara as a premier Division I athletics program."
Producing high-level content will also offer an ideal collaboration between Niagara's department of athletics and office of academic affairs
. Students - guided by industry professionals - will form an in-house production team during home sporting events and select other programs. Participating students will thus be able to add "produced content for a worldwide platform" to their resumes.
The training ground, as Maher noted, provides more tangible evidence of NU's commitment to success in its academic and athletic programs.
McKnight earned a bachelor's degree in business
from NU in 1966. He currently serves as president of Automated Petroleum and Energy Co., the leading provider of petroleum in Florida. Based in Brandon, the company is a branded wholesaler for Mobil, Sunoco, Chevron, Marathon, Citgo, Shell, Circle K, Spirit and BP. Automated Petroleum owns more than 300 gas stations in the state of Florida, and has 37 employees.