By Josh Veltrie
Adversity struck in an odd way at Rider on Aug. 22, as part of the floor inside Alumni Gym became soaked in water after 7.6 inches of rain poured down on campus that day. (See MAACness, p. 1)
Since about 30 percent of the floor was damaged, according to Athletic Director Don Harnum, it needs to be replaced, and the gym will end up with a floor more suitable for a Division I program.
“This has definitely caused some challenges and inconveniences for now,” Harnum said. “But we reached the very best solutions we could have hoped to reach in accommodating all three teams for the time being.”
The men’s and women’s basketball teams chose to practice in the old, little-used Mercer County Tennis Center. It was originally built in the 1940s and redone as a tennis center 20 years later. When a basketball is not bouncing the only sounds that can be heard are the chirps of crickets and the drips of water in puddles along the insides of the building near the Mercer County Airport.
The volleyball team must have their practices and matches in the Student Recreation Center (SRC). A sport court (floor) was purchased and placed in the SRC by the athletic department for the team to play on. This weekend the Broncs will try it out in home matches on Saturday and Sunday.
The other options for the basketball teams were local high schools and colleges, but there would most likely be scheduling conflicts if the teams were required to practice in someone else’s facilities, Harnum said.
Kevin Bannon, the former Rider men’s basketball head coach who now serves as director of Parks and Recreation for Mercer County, was a huge help, according to Tommy Dempsey, head coach of the men’s team.
“Once Kevin said they would be able to take our court [floor] from Sovereign Bank Arena it sealed the deal,” Dempsey said. “I didn’t even know about the center before this happened.”
Players and coaches now have to travel about 10 minutes to the old tennis center, a situation that the women’s team seems to be embracing.
“The team is doing quite well adjusting to this whole situation,” said the head coach of the women’s team, Lynn Milligan. “It’s unfortunate, but we knew we were going to have to deal with adversity at some point this year. We have been positive throughout this. It’s like we have our own sanctuary to practice in.”
The goal for the new floor to be put in and for the teams to be back in action on it is Nov. 7, according to Harnum. That is when the men’s team has its first exhibition game against West Chester.
“The whole process was scheduled to take about eight weeks from Sept. 13,” he said. “There was some asbestos found in older parts of the floors, along the outer edges, which we anticipated.”
Dempsey is not worried about the performance of his players being affected by this distraction.
“This is our home and it has been very good to us over the years,” he said. “We’ve won a lot of games here and we take pride in it.”
This entire operation will probably cost around a quarter of a million dollars, most of which is covered by insurance, according to Harnum.
“The floor will be able to deal with extensive renovation so that in the long run, we can still use this floor in a different facility,” he said. “We will not have to get a new floor when we decide to get a new gym.”