Home, sweet new home
January 19, 2006
Salt Lake Tribune
By Susan Winlow
Westminster ready to make use of new gym
The Payne Gymnasium on the Westminster College campus, when used right, was a point grabber for the women's volleyball team.
At 21 feet, the rafters were very low, and instead of complaining about constant ball lodgings and obstructions, the team was taught to bounce the balls off the rafters.
"It's been worth four or five points a game," said Susan Heath, associate provost and interim athletic director.
But even a few additional points can't ebb the excitement of moving into the new gym, the Health, Wellness and Athletic Center, on the Westminster campus.
The new facility, a three-story, 84,500-square-foot structure, will officially replace the Payne Gymnasium on Feb. 10. The basketball teams played their first games on the new floor last week.
And it wasn't a moment too soon.
Five years in the making, the old gym was figuratively bursting at the seams.
"The Payne Gym was built in the 1920s and [it had been] renovated as much as possible," Heath said.
Budget cuts in the 1970s forced the elimination of some athletic teams, including basketball. But by the late 1990s and into 2000, many of the teams were reinstated, including basketball.
"You can imagine all those sports sharing one gym," said Helen Langan, associate director of communications.
Said Heath: "With three sports conflicting for time, it was tough. This will give us more freedom to schedule."
Don't forget the Utah Jazz. Payne was the official Jazz practice site for 20 years and the NBA team shared facilities, including the weight room, with Westminster players and students.
"The students joked that they were 'our' team," said Langan, who attended Westminster in the '90s. "It was a fun relationship for us to have."
But it was a relationship that had to end. As Westminster moved its basketball teams back in, the Jazz moved to the new Zions Bank Basketball Center.
But for those with a nostalgic bent, the old gym will still be in use.
"It's still part of all the offerings," Langan said.
The focal point these days, however, will be on the new building, which will include racquetball courts, a swimming pool, fitness center and climbing wall, in addition to the gyms and training and locker facilities.
"They're [the students] just so thrilled with the new facility," Langan said.
Climbing classes aren't in the works yet, she said, but in the spring students will be able to attend climbing workshops.
Athletic teams aren't the only group benefiting from the new HWA Center. The third floor will hold the Center for Nursing Education, which will include classrooms and offices.
But unless you attend a Griffin athletic event, the new center isn't open to the general public.