APSU Athletics, Montgomery County Government, and the Nashville Predators held a groundbreaking ceremony in front of the Montgomery County Multi-Purpose Event Center construction in downtown Clarksville on Thursday afternoon.

In October, Austin Peay State University signed a 30-year lease for the event center as it will host the men and women’s basketball programs and will provide offices for coaches and assistant coaches. The event center will also provide locker rooms, practice facilities, and game day facilities.

Clarksville residents gathered in front of the construction as speakers from APSU Athletics, Montgomery County Government, and the Nashville Predators spoke about their excitement and gratitude with the event center. The speakers were Montgomery County Mayor Jim Durrett, Clarksville mayor Joe Pitts, APSU Director of Athletics Gerald Harrison, and Vice President and General Manager of Ford Ice Centers Danny Butler.

“This moment is very, very special for Montgomery County, but it’s truly a moment in time,” Mayor Durrett said. “[It is] one we should never forget, but we cannot stand by and watch this building go up and think that we’re through.”

Durrett mentioned the struggles of completing the project as the COVID-19 pandemic affects the globe and Clarksville. With the help of the APSU finance team, mayor Durrett continued the project of building the event center.

“We slowed down a little bit, but we’ve never skipped a beat, and I think that speaks volumes to the team that we have put together to construct the project…This project has been through a lot. It’s been through a whole lot. It’s been through a pandemic, two county commissions, two Austin Peay presidents, and two Austin Peay athletic directors, but the movement has never stopped, so today is a very special moment.”

Clarksville mayor Joe Pitts talked about the vision of the project and thanked Durrett.

“This day is not about a building. It’s about vision, and it’s about transformation,” Pitts added. “We’re not just transforming this city block. We’re transforming our community [from] ‘We can’ to ‘We will,'”

Harrison showed his enthusiasm with the project.

“Austin Peay basketball improved the day we signed the lease and will continue to improve everyday that the shovel goes into dirt and every beam of steel hits the ground,” Harrison said. “I am confident without question that we will have the best facility in the country, and the country for basketball and a great atmosphere. I’m looking forward [to] having a little Smashville in Stacheville.”

Harrison said that APSU Athletics will “recruit outstanding student-athletes that may not have been interested in Austin Peay before” and that coaches will have classrooms while fans will have improved amenities and sidelines in the event center.

Finally, Danny Butler spoke about the hardships in 2020.

“2020 has been a very trying year for many different reasons: the tornadoes, COVID, and plenty other hardships that people had to deal with, but the fact that mayor Durrett, the county, the city, under the watching of Mayor Pitts, was about to get this deal done during a global pandemic proves their dedication of making this work in Montgomery County,” Butler said.

Despite the hardships, Butler stated his excitement for upcoming events in the multipurpose event purpose, just like when the two Ford Ice Centers in Antioch and in Bellevue held events for hockey tournaments and figure skating.

“We’re thrilled for managing this facility. We’re thrilled to be a part of the Montgomery County and Clarksville community and we’re excited to bring great events to Montgomery County and having kids and adults zoom around the ice.

“We’re excited about Austin Peay basketball, and we’re excited to see you guys dominating on the court. We’re really excited for our new neighbors, and we’re really excited about Austin Peay, who’s going to become our best friend very quickly.”