Nishe Butler / Asst. News Editor
With great pride and anticipation the Riverside Community College District Board of Trustees hosted the official rededication and open house of the historic Wheelock Gymnasium, on Nov. 3, after a two year wait.
The Wheelock Gym had been an old structure which did not meet the requirements to withstand any earthquake, so it went under renovation.
The newly renovated gym is fully equipped with six basketball courts, a volleyball court, men and women locker rooms, 14 restrooms, three elevators, a capacity of 960 seats and 31 handicap accessible seats. Completing 41,662 square feet becoming a state of the art facility.
The master of ceremonies was Derrick Johnson, RCC athletic director.
Remarks were made by Los Angeles Clippers’ broadcaster Ralph Lawler, Janet Green president of the Board of Trustees, Cynthia Azari, president of RCC, RCC athletics hall of fame member, Alicia Berber, RCC women’s basketball coach and John Smith, RCC men’s basketball coach.
“If this building could talk (imagine) the stories it would tell,” Lawler said.
Although Lawler was never a student at RCC, he did get his broadcasting career started in the 1960s doing play-by-play for a number of games during the period former RCC men’s basketball coach Jerry Tarkanian led his team to three state championships.
“I am forever grateful for my opportunity here at this college,” Lawler said. “I was not a student but I am forever a Tiger.”
Green said how the college was able to renovate the gym by using the Measure C funds. She said RCC students are benefiting from the new structures that the measure has contributed in helping build.
“RCC prides itself on, not only top notch athletes, but most importantly, top notch students,” Green said.
Fred “Lucky” Smith, father of coach John Smith, played during the “Tarkanian Era,” and John shared thoughts of what it meant to him to be at the ceremony.
“What it has meant for me to be here, where my father won back-to-back championships is very humbling,” John said. “I have been able to build a program and teach my players that, by facing their fears, they can knock them down, jump over them and accomplish anything.”
John said he is happy to be back home in the renovated gym.
During the renovation period both RCC basketball teams practiced in the Huntley Gym and their home games were played at Cal Baptist University.
The volleyball team practiced and played in the Huntley Gym.
Berber said she is also excited to be back in the renovated gym and begin the new season this month.
“I have spent over half my life here at RCC,” she said. “I always encourage my student athletes to save their best efforts for the classroom.”
As the ceremony concluded President Azari thanked the community members who attended. She was sure all the student athletes will feel empowered with the new addition to the college.
“I am inspired to see what the next year has to offer,” she said.
The women’s and men’s basketball players offered tours of the renovated gym during the ceremony.
“I want to set records making a difference; It is going to be an amazing year for both the women’s and men’s basketball teams,” said Davina Pasillas, player for RCC women’s basketball team.