Burns Athletic Center Built in 1991
Missouri Valley College has a wonderful multipurpose athletic facility. The Burns Center is located on the south edge of the campus across from the football field. The south campus, or Gibler campus, is a 40-acre site that includes a recreation area, practice fields, Mack Porter stables, parking, and other features. Inside the Burns Center are a 2,000-seat gymnasium, indoor track, weight room, locker rooms, training rooms, classrooms, coaches' offices, and the Viking Hall of Fame.
This walking tour begins on the south side of the campus with this multimillion-dollar building which marked the successful financial turnaround that propelled Missouri Valley College into its second century. Consisting of Volney Ashford Gymnasium with its various athletic facilities and two adjacent practice fields for soccer and football, the area is named The Gibler Campus in honor of Ken Gibler, the football coach whose recruits at one point numbered a fourth of the student body. The complex houses the College’s many athletic programs.
Through the front doors and up the stairs is a mezzanine which houses the Hall of Fame and trophy cases to commemorate the indomitable Viking spirit which has captured the attention of the nation. Banners hung over the basketball court celebrate the national championships won by Viking varsity teams. Seating 1,500 spectators, the arena hosts convocations and community gatherings as well as indoor sporting events. This sprawling facility contains three practice courts and a performance court for basketball; three volleyball courts; two baseball batting cages; a six-lane, one-tenth-mile track; a pole vault pit; a broad jump pit; locker rooms; a fully equipped training room; a laundry room; classrooms; offices and a conference room for coaches and staff; and wrestling and weight rooms.
Annual Homecoming celebrations culminate behind the Burns Complex with a bonfire lit by a torch which has been run by relay from the campus of the opposing football team. Organized by Professor Ed Leslie for the first time in 1958, the torch run brought national attention to Viking valor when students ran from Marshall to the Tangerine Bowl in Orlando, Florida, a distance of 1,285 miles. Completion of the Burns Complex in 1991 climaxed a turnaround in the College’s fortunes engineered by former President Earl J. Reeves and alumnus Dennis Spellman. Reeves knew Thomas Walton and his son Sam, the founder of Wal-Mart. Their family lived in Marshall during the fateful year of 1927, when quarterback Volney Ashford led an undefeated football team so strong that no opponent managed to make more than two first downs. Thomas, 57 years later, could still remember the name of every player on that team. Sam, in a personal interview with Reeves, recalled sneaking in to see games for free by crawling under the fence. During their first visit, Thomas gave Reeves $300. Later came a donation for the Burns Complex of $250,000 from the Walton Family Charitable Support Foundation, the very first grant it ever made. Together with a $2.6 million bequest from alumna Georgia Robertson Burns and a $1 million grant from the Mabee Foundation, donations from other friends of the College made The Gibler Campus a reality.