The University of Mary Washington officially opened the pristine William M. Anderson Center on Aug. 25, and last night the UMW volleyball team christened the new building with its first ever collegiate athletic event.
The 55,000 square foot facility cost between $14 million and $15 million to complete, and seats 1,709 spectators for sporting events, while approximately 2,500 people can be packed in for concerts and convocation type ceremonies.
“My general reaction to the new building was ‘wow,’” volleyball head coach Dee Conway said. “I was very impressed with the facility, and now that we’ve been in it and practicing in there, I’m still wowed. It’s an exciting building, a fun building that was much needed, and it’s everything that we expected.”
The building wasn’t easy to get finished. According to Athletic Director Ed Hegmann, the Anderson Center was first schematically designed back in 1989, but was delayed in its arrival primarily due to lack of funds. The original layout of the building was meant to include a 50-meter pool and be a combination fitness center, gymnasium and event center. The UMW brass had to scrap those plans when they realized they would not have the money to make such a facility happen, and built the current fitness center and parking deck to make developments that they could afford.
However, Hegmann did not quit on his dream to build the Anderson Center, though sacrifices had to be made. The Vice President of Business Affairs originally funded the building at $30 million, but one third of that figure was slashed when the building’s namesake, then university president William M. Anderson, decided that number was too high. The loss of $10 million cost the new facility the 50-meter pool, as well as the practice gymnasium that had initially been planned for.
That is not to say that Anderson Center is not a spectacle, particularly when looking at the vast improvements made from Goolrick Gymnasium. The new building has eight total basketball hoops, and because of the larger gym space, the side baskets do not interfere with the main court, which is advantageous for practice purposes.
There are upgraded scoreboards on the north and south sides of the gym, with an LED matrix board also on the south wall that can display stats, announcements, advertising, and more. The same LED matrix boards will be used on the new scorers tables that were purchased for the latest facility, as well as on the press table, which is another new addition.
“Compared to what we’ve come from, it’s like night and day,” men’s head basketball coach Rod Wood said. “Once you step foot in here, I don’t care who you are, it’s just ‘wow.’ There is a definite wow factor to this place and I really think that this can be a building that has a great atmosphere, be it at a basketball game, a volleyball game, or a concert.”
Wood, Conway, and women’s basketball head coach Deena Applebury each had their offices moved into the Anderson Center, and a separate President’s Box area is reserved for when UMW President Rick Hurley attends events.
There are three team locker rooms, one each for volleyball, men’s basketball and women’s basketball, that are more professional looking than their older spaces in Goolrick. Each UMW sports locker room includes multiple storage areas for the players, their own bathroom and shower areas, wireless access and a high-definition, flat screen television to be utilized to watch game film. In addition to the those team rooms, there are also two visiting locker rooms and an officials locker room, each of which are also upscale.
The gymnasium itself has higher ceilings, standing room areas, and a mezzanine that circles all the way around the gym. There are also multiple high quality cameras posted throughout that focus on the court, giving the control room operator multiple shots of the game that can be streamed on the array of televisions throughout the concourse area, and can later be shown online following the game. The main concourse itself is littered with the aforementioned flat screen televisions, as well as multiple trophy cases, lounge areas, and a proficient concession stand that will be run by UMW’s dining service, Sodexo.
“I think the biggest thing to me is the expanse of the new facility,” Hegmann said. “It feels like a college gym. When you walked into [Goolrick] it felt like and looked like a junior high school gym, not even a high school gym.”
The more professional building with increased seating will now give Mary Washington the opportunity to apply to host postseason tournaments. Hegmann said that despite the ticket window seen at the main entrance, the only time that UMW Athletics plans to charge for entry to sporting events will be during these postseason tournaments, when they are required to do so by either the CAC or the NCAA.
“Hats off to [Ed Hegmann] because he’s the one who built this thing,” Wood said. “He was the driving force of everything that you see in here and he is the one who made this happen.”
The opening of the Anderson Center means that Goolrick Gymnasium will now be available to the general student body more often to be used for intramural sports and recreational purposes. While most students may be happy to have more open gym time, the collegiate athletes can’t wait to play in the environment.
“The new building is definitely amazing, and I’m just ready to play in it,” sophomore basketball player E.J. Willis said. “I went to T.C. Williams and that gym was way bigger than [Goolrick’s] gym, so I’m just really happy to have the new one. I really can’t believe we have it. We’re a Division III school and we have a D-I level gym.”
The men’s basketball team will have their first game in the new building on November 18, while the women’s basketball squad will get their first chance to compete on their new home court on Dec. 3.