Up a Notch
July 21, 2014
The Schwartz Center, with its plastic floor and cozy locker rooms, was designed to emphasize function over flash.
The architects behind Cape Fear Community College's gymnasium had physical education in mind ahead of college hoops. That decision made sense when the school didn't yet sponsor a basketball team and the $10 million project was approved in 1999.
Now, CFCC officials believe it's time the Schwartz Center caught up with their growing athletic goals. For the past 15 months, athletic director Robby McGee has led fundraising efforts for a renovation to the facility.
The $3.6 million plan calls for two new locker rooms, a trainer's room and an academic center, in addition to an expanded lobby area. The gym would finally get a wood floor, along with a new scoreboard and seating with hardback chairs.
CFCC has, so far, secured $1.1 million in private donations and pledges toward the roughly $2.6 million needed for construction costs, according to McGee. He also has raised the money needed for the floor and scoreboard.
While almost all of the new construction at CFCC through the years has come through local bonds, officials hope for this project to be funded mostly through private means. The city of Wilmington's 2014-2015 recommended budget does earmark $100,000 for the renovation, which is included in McGee's figure.
In May, Wilmington architecture firm LS3P laid out a three-phase plan, which would start with the locker rooms. Construction on that addition could begin during the basketball season but McGee said he's hopeful to secure enough money that the work could move continuously. McGee said the school needs to get closer to the full amount before setting a timetable for work to begin.
"Everything will kind of be taken up a notch," McGee said. "With the growth of the college and the growth of the athletic program comes the growth of facilities."
The Schwartz Center will still hold roughly 1,500 fans under the plan, but McGee said the addition is necessary to keep developing the programs housed there.
CFCC has particularly felt the squeeze since it added women's basketball in 2012. Both basketball teams, volleyball and cheerleading must share the available time during certain stretches.
McGee said the locker rooms are the top priority, calling the current setup "pretty embarrassing."
When it holds contests, CFCC must shuffle around the available space. For men's games, the visiting team uses the women's locker room, while the officials take the one usually used by the men. This leaves the Sea Devils to dress in a team room.
Lori Drake said her women's team doesn't normally use its small locker room, except for game days. Physical education students use the lockers during the day, so players can't keep their belongings there. New locker rooms would allow players on all three teams to have their own dedicated space.
The current arrangement also present health concerns. All three teams that use the locker rooms had at least one documented case of MRSA last fall, which McGee attributed to the cramped conditions. Showering after games is impractical for both squads.
"When we do (pregame talks) we're kind of on top of each other," Drake said. "We have kids crammed in there sitting on sinks and stuff, but we make do. Our kids don't complain."
Men's coach Ryan Mantlo has delivered three trips to the NJCAA national tournament in the past six years but said it will be hard to make the next jump without an upgraded home venue.
The plastic floor stands out when recruits visit campus. The surface is harder on knees than wood, the coach said. The team's locker room always seems even smaller after the Sea Devils make road trips to more established programs with first-class facilities.
The academic center would provide CFCC athletes a place to do school work and study film before and after practice. Right now, players pack into Mantlo's office and sit on the floor to watch film.
The addition of a specified room for athletic trainer Scott Glickauf answers a common question from prospective players.
"You've won all these championships, so you've got that piece to the puzzle," Mantlo said. "Now we add that other piece, and it makes us a powerhouse, I think."
Courtesy of Eric Detweiler