Thursday July 17, 2008

Anachronistic Artifact

At the dedication of UD's Physical Activities Center in 1974, guests took home a commemorative ashtray. One of them surfaced as advancement division employees prepared for this month's move to the College Park Center.

At the groundbreaking of RecPlex, which opened in January 2006, UD fittingly marked the occasion with complimentary t-shirts and pedometers.

By then, new times clearly had brought about new methods — the timeless invocation of Marianist founder Father William Joseph Chaminade; 32 years before, at the dedication of UD's Physical Activities Center, guests, conversely, took home a commemorative ashtray. One of them surfaced as advancement division employees prepared for this month's move to the College Park Center.

"Maybe it's a candy dish," speculated Debbie Trimbach in advancement when she saw the artifact — as though candy were terribly less contrary than cigarettes to the facility's intended purpose.

"No, it wasn't a candy dish," laughed RecPlex director Billy Mayo, who started UD's recreational sports program in 1971 and was part of the PAC's fundraising and dedication. "It was definitely an ashtray. Everybody smoked back then."

Irony aside, the PAC, which over the past 18 months has been converted to UD's athletics practice facility, was state-of-the-art for student recreation at the time. In a fundraising brochure called "Silly Frill? We Think Not," UD trumpeted the proposed PAC as "a super complex of on-campus physical recreation facilities" guaranteed to "significantly improve the quality of life at your University."

The need was urgent, proclaimed fundraising co-chairs Bette Rogge Morse '44 and Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Chuck Noll '53. Intramurals had grown from 17 to 34 offerings in the program's two years, and student participation rose proportionately. "Large or small, every gift is needed," they said.

Students, corporations and alumni delivered to the tune of $1.25 million. Without their support, the PAC would have been "but a pipe dream for a private institution in a depressed economy," the dedication program said. "But such a building ... is no longer a dream ... and it is paid for."

The new building featured:

  • An eight-lane swimming pool with a diving area
  • A gymnasium for basketball, volleyball, badminton, tennis and jogging
  • Handball, paddleball and squash courts
  • Wrestling and weight conditioning rooms
  • A gymnastics area
  • Dance instruction areas
  • Alumni and student reception areas
  • A human performance laboratory
  • Locker rooms, storage and administrative space

Changing with the times

Some things have changed over the years at the PAC. When the RecPlex opened, the PAC no longer needed a pool, so it was filled in; in its place is the basketball court formerly in UD Arena. The Collins Gymnasium has a new multi-purpose floor that is friendlier to athletes' knees than its former surface. The track now has an Olympic surface.

And, smoking is no longer permitted.

Assorted facts:

  • Since the intramural sports program's early days, basketball and flag football have been the perennial favorites, said Mark Hoying, assistant director for intramural sports. RecPlex's larger facilities, however, have expanded the appeal for sports such as dodgeball, indoor soccer and floor hockey, which also draw heavy participation.
  • In the 2007 08 academic year, 3,949 students — 1,183 women and 2766 men — participated in intramural sports, Hoying said; that's more than half of all undergraduates.
  • RecPlex cost $25.3 million; it's not paid for yet.
  • Cigarette smoking alone is directly responsible for approximately 30 percent of all cancer deaths annually in the United States, reports the National Cancer Institute of the National Institutes of Health.
  • It's never too late to stop smoking.

— Maureen Schlangen