BY ANDREAS BUTLER
More than 100 Bethune-Cookman University administrators, staffers, coaches, athletes, students, community residents, local political leaders witnessed history on Sept. 21 as the school dedicated its Larry R. Handfield Athletic Training Center.
The new state-of-the-art facility is located on campus at the corner of International Speedway Boulevard and Lincoln Street across from the Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune Performing Arts Center.
“It’s a great day and I am excited. We are marching forward to excellence providing world-class athletes who will graduate and go and proceed with the best,” said B-CU Interim President Dr. Edison Jackson.
The purpose of the building is to upgrade the school’s athletic facilities.
“This is a historic occasion. We give thanks for a facility which will change the lives of youngsters for a time to come,” stated B-CU Director of Athletics Lynn Thompson.
The new facility is equipped with many state-of-the art features, including a weight room; sports medicine treatment, observation and rehabilitation rooms; X-ray capability, team meeting rooms, video rooms and offices. The new building is equipped with the latest technology.
“This is a state-of-the-art smart building that is second to none. In each office, coaches have touch-screen technology that gives them instant access to what they need,” emphasized Dr. Larry Handfield, the B-CU trustee and Miami-based attorney whose name is on the building.
Private funds took care of the cost, which has a hefty $4.7million price tag.
“This wasn’t built by state-government mandated funds but by those who had a desire and passion to give,” expressed Thompson.
Thanks to fans, boosters
Patrons who contributed funds for the construction of the facility also were recognized during the dedication. A wall inside the building has the names of every person who contributed any money towards the building’s construction.
The building also is home to the Athletic Hall of Fame and the football program.
“Our football program is the direct beneficiary and steward of this facility. Our head football coach Brian Jenkins is the building’s manager,” commented Thompson.
“I would like to thank everybody who made this possible from the alumni, fans, boosters and administration. When I first took this job, I made a promise that a new day is coming. Seeing this facility and being a part of it gives me a reassured sense to that promise and I make that promise again. It’s also a promise that we all must keep,” added Jenkins.
The event also honored Handfield whom the building is named after. He was one of the main contributors of funds and advocates for the facility.
“I had to pinch myself to make sure that I wasn’t attending my own funeral. I give honor to all the trustees, alumni, faculty, administration, students and fans. I am without words and as a trial lawyer that is saying something,” Handfield remarked.
Handfield is the former director of the school’s board of trustees, current trustee member, a B-CU alumnus and former band member.
“What’s special about this institution is that the professors care. I had one that stopped me from sleeping when I was in his class. It was the first class of the day and I was in the band and was up practicing late. This institution has shaped and molded me as well as taught me the responsibilities to give back to others,” commented Handfield.
Those who attended the ceremony felt excitement for what the building has to offer.
“I think the facility is great. I think that the students and the community will benefit. I believe that it will definitely help the school recruit top athletes. Student athletes want to attend schools that invest in their future. This is good for an HBCU to be able to compete with other schools across the state and country,” said Kim Brown-Crawford.
Albert Williams, a former assistant football coach in the 1970s, added, “This is a tremendous place and it gives many opportunities to the student athletes. It’s in a great location and it improves this part of International Speedway Boulevard. The kids will enjoy it and make good use of it. We would have welcomed this in my day, but we didn’t have anything like this.”
B-CU plans to build a practice football field adjacent to the facility.
The Daytona Beach Midtown Redevelopment Area Board approved the construction of the field at a recent meeting.
“We appreciate those who had a willingness to approve our university’s plans so that we can meet our needs. We are very thankful and humble,” Thompson noted.
Currently the team practices on a field next to Bronson Hall men’s dormitory. The school also will renovate the old football home, located on International Speedway Boulevard. Once completed, the building will be home to the bowling, tennis and softball programs. It will consist of meeting rooms, locker rooms, academic support and offices.