Raising the bar

MC upgrading facilities to better serve athletes, coaches

Year in and year out, Maryville College’s Cooper Athletic Center sees a lot of action.

Housing three gymnasiums, a swimming pool, a weight room, a training room, classrooms and offices, the 68,000-square-foot building is frequented by students, competitive athletes and excited fans alike.

Cooper Athletic Center saw a different kind of action this summer, though. Along with several other campus buildings, the 38-year-old facility was renovated with money allocated for the Campus Improvement Plan and additional funds from an endowment established by the late Finis G. and the late Ethel Burchfield Cooper, alumni from the classes of 1918 and 1919, respectively.

Construction crews worked in various parts of the building to complete projects outlined in “Phase I” of the renovation. A major part of Phase I renovations was reconfiguring the interior space.

“In Phase I, our biggest need was our coaches,” athletics director Kandis Schram said. “We had two or three to an office.”

The entrance to the athletic department’s main office suite has been moved to the side hallway. The old entrance has been reconfigured to house the Sports Information staff. The lobby has also been outfitted with a large screen TV, which will air interviews with players and other interest pieces.

Inside the Boydson Baird Gymnasium, floors are being refinished and new goals, shot clock, LED lights and sound system are being installed.

The racquetball courts have been transformed into meeting rooms, and the Honaker Room has divided up into much-needed office space for the soccer, softball and tennis programs. Across the hall, the space allocated for the training room and laundry room was reconfigured to better accommodate trainers and students.

The weight room renovation is complete. Work crews dropped the ceiling, installed new lights and painted the walls. The college’s “Power M” now adorns the back wall.

New furniture, along with new washers and a dryer, are being purchased for the athletic department’s laundry facility.

Watching Phase I projects nearly completed, Schram said the building will better serve 13 varsity sports and their coaches and staffs and one physical education department.

First opened in 1970, Cooper was not designed to accommodate women’s sports, Schram points out.

“When this building was constructed, there were only men’s sports, so we’ve had to share locker spaces and offices,” she said.

With enrollment likely twice what it was in 1970 and with approximately 325 student-athletes currently enrolled at the college, usage of the building has increased exponentially.

Last year’s renovations marked the beginning of a major initiative. During the summer, Cooper received air conditioning for the first time. Also, the pool received a new floor and decking, as well as new overhead lights and paint.

As Phase I would suggest a Phase II, additional renovations are planned but aren’t likely to materialize for a few years. Plans arrived this week for a hoped-for makeover that would make Cooper Athletic Center a vastly different looking complex.

Plans would include a completely remodeled front, along with a second story that would house a VIP room for donors overlooking Randy Lambert Court. A student-athlete lounge has been proposed.

“We’re hoping to construct a whole new wellness wing,” Schram said. “This includes additions such as offices, a lobby and a locker room.”

There are also questions about what, if anything, should be done with the school’s pool inside Cooper Athletic Center, Schram said.

The price tag for Phase II could reach $15 million. It’s a figure Schram, in her first year as athletics director, is committed to seeing come to pass.

“It’s going to happen,” she said. “In my lifetime, it’s going to happen.”

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