Schar Center: What’s next for Alumni Gymnasium
While major campus events will take place at the new convocation center beginning in fall 2018, Alumni Gym will remain an important space for students on campus.
Since it opened its doors for the first time in 1949, Alumni Gymnasium has witnessed some of Elon’s greatest moments spanning five presidents—from welcoming national and international speakers and hosting countless graduation ceremonies to holding impromptu gatherings in times of celebration and grief and serving as backdrop for ultimate athletic triumphs.
And while beginning this fall Schar Center will be the site for these sorts of events moving forward, Alumni Gym will remain an important space for students on campus. Jon Dooley, vice president for student life, says scheduling for Alumni Gym will be handled by Campus Recreation and Wellness, which creates new opportunities for intramural and campus events. For instance, outdoor concerts or sporting events sponsored by the Student Government Association will now be able to be held indoors. Annual events like Elonthon will still take place at the facility, he says.
The legacy of a facility that has held so many important events in Elon’s history cannot be understated, says George Troxler, university historian and former dean of cultural and special programs. After all, it was there Elon hosted then-U.S. Vice President Lyndon Johnson in 1962, President Jimmy Carter in 1989 and President George H.W. Bush in 2001, as well as a host of other impressive speakers like Desmond Tutu, Colin Powell, Jane Goodall and the late Maya Angelou. “It was very much at the center of things,” Troxler says. “It was the site for every graduation since it was built until 1987, when we went outside for the first time.” The building’s greatest legacy, he adds, will be in the countless memories students formed while attending an event there, not to mention the many athletic successes. “We’ve had a history of outstanding basketball that has taken place in that space,” Troxler says. “It’s certainly where women’s intercollegiate sports got their start after Title IX. The current intercollegiate teams have a large legacy to live up to.”
Coaches and players are excited to play in Schar Center, but they are also grateful to the place that has served as home of athletics for almost 70 years. “It’s a warm, special feeling to be where so many people have had all of these amazing experiences,” says men’s basketball head coach Matt Matheny, who closed his ninth year coaching in the historic building in the 2017–18 academic year. “Elon legends have played in Alumni Gym. I’m honored to be the coach and our team to be the team that got to be a part of the last season in this great storied facility.” Elon women’s basketball head coach Charlotte Smith echoes that sentiment. She led the Phoenix to back-to-back regular season titles in 2016–17 and 2017–18, and the memories of cutting the net at Alumni Gym will forever be with her. “Alumni Gym was very special, an intimate facility where we won a lot of games,” Smith says. “We took a lot of pride in protecting our court and taking ownership of our facility.”
While Smith says she is looking forward to creating new traditions in their new home, the legacy of Alumni Gym will not be forgotten. “A lot of great memories were formed at Alumni Gym,” she says. “Our goal is to continue the legacy that we started there.”