JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Historic Swisher Gym has been a fixture on the campus of Jacksonville University for 63 years. The venue has undergone several changes over that time, and JU Athletic Director Alex Ricker-Gilbert and the rest of the athletic department are pleased to unveil the latest renovations that will keep Swisher Gym as the home of the Dolphins for the foreseeable future.
"Phase 1 of the Swisher Gym project is nearing completion," said Athletic Director Alex Ricker-Gilbert. "In saying that, the final, largest piece of the project will arrive in October. We will be installing two 18-foot videoboards at either end of the gym and a 40-foot video scorer's table."
Constructed in 1953, the Historic Swisher Gym has been the sight of 247 men's basketball games, 220 women's basketball games, and almost 600 volleyball games. In those 63 seasons, the venue has been the site of five regular season conference championships, seen 11 basketball players score their 1,000th point, and seven volleyball players record their 1,000th kill. More importantly, over 700 student-athletes have played on the courts of Swisher Gym, most of which graduated from Jacksonville University.
With so much history, it's no wonder the venue was in need of some restoration and renovation. The summer-long, all-encompassing restoration project included new off-white end lines and sidelines, a new center court "JU" logo that stretches from three-point line to three-point line, a new coat of paint on the walls, and new energy-efficient windows and lighting. A 40-foot video scorer's table and two 18-foot video boards are in the process of being installed. Ricker-Gilbert hopes the renovation will help the university continue to attract high-caliber student-athletes and fans from around the world.
"The upgrades are essential as we continue to facilitate the success of men's and women's basketball and indoor volleyball," continued Ricker-Gilbert. "Building on momentum is key in college athletics and this renovation continues our momentum into 2016-17. I would be remiss if I didn't sincerely thank those who were involved in making this project a reality."
The first program to return to the new Historic Swisher Gym will be the Dolphin volleyball team. Head Coach Julie Darty is excited about breaking in the venue.
"I love Swisher Gym so much, so for this facelift to happen and for it to get a new look is an exciting thing to be a part of," said Darty. "We're thrilled to be the first team to play in the 'new' Swisher on September 2 at our home tournament, and we can't wait for the other teams in our league to check out our new home court. I think everyone will love the fresh look and feel in there. Extreme Makeover: Swisher Edition was definitely a project that we felt needed to happen, and I know we are excited to get back to our home court for practices and matches after having our entire preseason off-site."
The importance of the renovation isn't lost on the basketball coaching staffs either. Both coaches discussed the impact the upgrades will have on their programs.
"It's an exciting time to be at Jacksonville University," said Men's Basketball Head Coach Tony Jasick. "Updating this facility is an important campus project that will impact our program and the JU community in many ways, including recruiting, overall fan experience, and media exposure opportunities. I truly appreciate the individuals who have stepped up and supported the Swisher Gym project."
"Renovations across campus and at Swisher Gym show the commitment and continual support of university officials," said Women's Basketball Head Coach Yolett McPhee-McCuin. "After winning a championship for the first time in JU program history, it means the world to me, my staff and team to see the commitment firsthand. We look forward to continuing to build a championship program on the newly-renovated Swisher floors."
These renovations open the door for more history to be made on the campus of Jacksonville University. It is the sincere hope of the athletic department that fans and media will be there for the next dunk, the next dig, and the next championship for years to come.
Fans will have their first opportunity to witness the renovations first-hand on September 2nd and September 3rd, when the volleyball team hosts theJAX Classic presented by the Jacksonville Marriott. The Dolphins will face Presbyterian College, the University of North Carolina-Charlotte, and the University of Illinois-Chicago over the two-day tournament.