Syracuse University will name the new indoor practice facility the "Ensley Athletic Center," on behalf of Cliff Ensley, a walk-on who earned a football scholarship and became a three-sport standout at Syracuse in the late 1960's. Ensley's multi-million dollar gift, combined with previously announced major gifts from Dick and Jean Thompson and others to be announced later this year, made the construction of the 87,000 square-foot practice facility possible. The facility also includes a 7,600 square-foot entry pavilion which houses meeting space and restrooms.
Ensley earned the 1969 Syracuse Athlete of the Year award, an honor that had previously been given to Jim Brown, Larry Csonka, Floyd Little, Ernie Davis and Dave Bing. Ensley is the last three-sport letter-winner for the Orange, earning honors in football, lacrosse and wrestling. A defensive back, Ensley set interception and special teams records for the football team and was a team co-captain and Most Valuable Player as a defenseman for the 1969 lacrosse squad.
"To have an individual who walked-on at Syracuse, and through hard work and determination became one of our great student-athletes – and competed in three different sports, give the lead gift on this building is wonderfully fitting," said Director of Athletics Dr. Daryl Gross. "The Ensley Athletic Center is where thousands of student-athletes will work tirelessly to become the very best they can be and reach their fullest potential. Cliff is a living example of that – excelling in sports, business and life."
Ensley, who resides in New Jersey, is the founder and CEO of Leisure Merchandising Corporation. His wife, Sue, serves as the Executive Vice President. He is the chairman of the Board of Directors of the Travel Goods Association, the national organization representing manufacturers, distributors, retailers, promoters, sales representatives and suppliers of luggage and travel products.
The Ensley Athletic Center official grand opening will occur later this year, however several Syracuse teams are currently using the building in preparation for the 2015 seasons, and football players will begin individual workouts when University classes start next week and for Spring practice that will begin in February.
The Ensley Athletic Center took seven months to construct, and is the latest major investment in the Syracuse Football program's facilities. Previously, the football program unveiled renovated locker rooms, theater, training facilities and cafeteria. In addition, the Hall of Fame and student-athlete lounge were also renovated. In the coming months, the football program will renovate offices and meeting spaces for student-athletes.