Senior Staff Writer
On Sunday, the ribbon-cutting ceremony conducted by Director of Athletics Jim Murphy marked the opening of the $13.3 million Harry L. Vance Athletic Center, an addition to the Baker Sports Complex. The dedication ceremony included words from President Carol Quillen and men’s basketball coach Bob McKillop, and concluded with coaches cutting the ribbon. Various student-athletes and dancers were the first to officially enter the facility.
The much anticipated 500,000 square-foot facility features new practice courts for men’s and women’s basketball and volleyball, the Cheryle Williamson Center with two new dance studios, various administrative offices, the Red Ventures Athletic Club lounge, an enhanced Nisbet Hall of Fame, and a new ticket office with internal and external ticket windows.
“We’ve been really excited about the facility for a long time so it’s great to see it open and finally see the excitement around it,” men’s basketball player Andrew McAuliffe ’17 said.
The building is dedicated to Harry L. Vance `26, whom many consider to be the college’s top-ranking athlete. “Now it is really most appropriate that this space carry the name of the late Harry L. Vance, Davidson Class of 1926,” Murphy said in a formal address. “Arguably one of Davidson’s most premier athletes of all time, he still holds the record for most varsity letters earned––I think there was nine. Harry was a leader at a time when athletics were beginning to play a more prominent role at Davison, almost 90 years ago today. Today marks another important time in the evolution of Davidson athletics. We are thrilled to be naming this facility in his honor today.”
Among the various donors, Vance’s daughter, Ann Ginn, and her husband Samuel, gifted the college’s athletic program with $4 million to support the creation of the new space.
Overall, the facility will normalize the practice schedules of men’s and women’s basketball, in addition to volleyball. It will also help expand the college’s dance program, thanks to the donations of Cheryle and Joel Williamson `67.
“Physically, [student-athletes] are going to feel so much better in terms of a more normal practice routine, normal dining hours, normal study hours––and we do study here,” McKillop said in his address. “Emotionally, it’s uplifting. I can assure you that just looking at their faces as they walk into the locker rooms and practice on the practice courts and walk through the hallways, this is physically, emotionally, and technically a jolt in the arm.”
Volleyball player Mikayla Derochie `17 echoed McKillop’s words. “I’m really excited that we no longer have to have late practices because all three teams are practicing on the main court,” she explained. “We would sometimes have to have practice at eight or nine. It really messed up our eating, studying, and sleeping schedules.”
Dance ensemble and Shades of Brown Step Team member Zakiyyah Chism `18 said, “This is not just about athletics, although that is a very important part of our school, but it also shows how we are very interested in the arts like dance. So the fact that we have even more spaces for dances and more spaces to create that art is something that I’m very excited about.”
During the dedication ceremony, Quillen distinguished the athletic program as exemplary of the integrity carried out in the academic realm of the college and placed high emphasis on the importance of student-athletes within the community.
“Davidson does athletics right,” she remarked. “Athletics at Davidson serve the educational mission of the institution. And if you ever for a moment doubt that, talk to one of our student-athletes. Spend one minute with any one of these exceptional young people and you will know how much playing their sport at the highest level of competition has enriched their educational experience and the educational experience of all their classmates. We are privileged to have these extraordinary young people on our campus and in our community, and they deserve a facility that honors their commitment to excellence.”
The Vance Athletic Center is designed to amplify the national recognition of the college’s athletic programs and honor student-athletes, as Murphy, McKillop, and Quillen explained. As Murphy put it, the new space is a “state of the art difference-maker.”