BY ANDREAS BUTLER
Bethune-Cookman University will open the Larry R Handfield Athletic Training Center on Sept. 22, the same day 12 Wildcats will be inducted into the school’s inaugural Athletic Hall of Fame.
A dedication ceremony of the center is scheduled Sept. 22 at noon. That event is free and open to the public.
“It’s been a long time coming and we are glad and excited. We will also conduct tours of the facility following the dedication,” said Lynn Thompson, B-CU’s Director of Athletics.
Hall of Famers
The 2012 Hall of Fame class includes athletes Corey Fuller (basketball), Amber Jackson (softball), Jeff Parker (football), Willie Jackson (football), Erma Jones (women’s basketball) and Wallace Raspberry (football); coaches Laura Watten (softball) and Charles Wesley Moore (football); humanitarians Samuel Barry, Dr. Everett Abney; and special lifetime achievement honors for Dr. James E. Huger and Walt Frazier.
“We have a lot of people that deserve recognition. I want to commend our committee for the job that they’ve done. They recognized people who have made lifetime achievements and contributions as well as those who were humanitarians and supporters of the school for a long time. They recognized coaches and six student athletes from six different decades. They chose one from each decade dating back to the 1950s,” said Lynn Thompson, Director of Athletics at B-CU.
A reception dinner will take place at 6:15 p.m. and the Hall of Fame induction ceremony at 7 p.m. on Saturday. The Hall of Fame event is by reservation only and currently is full.
“We think that it is just appropriate that the Hall be housed inside the lobby of this new and beautiful state of the art center,” Thompson said.
Both events are part of B-CU’s Hall of Fame football weekend. B-CU will face the Tennessee State University Tigers at Daytona Beach’s Municipal Stadium at 4 p.m. on Sept. 22.
“It’s a busy and festive weekend. This also gives us an opportunity to recognize the donors, major donors and all those who contributed to this project,” noted Thompson.
The Hall of Fame inductees will lead the legacy walk at 2 p.m. before the game and will serve as honorary game captains.
The legacy walk is a tradition started by Coach Brian Jenkins in his first season back in 2010 where the team walks from the buses into the stadium to the locker rooms dressed in shirt and tie. One player carries a photo of the school’s founder, Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune.
Benefit for school
The new athletic training center benefits the university and its athletic programs.
“It gives us a tremendous asset to use in development of our student athletes as well as a recruiting tool with all its components. It also provides us visibility on the national level,” emphasized Thompson.
The building wasn’t required by the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) for the school’s division I status, which was recertified a few years ago.
“It wasn’t required, but we did need such a facility. The NCAA does look at your facilities as for as a school providing full and stable opportunities for their student athletes. This building now provides us a tremendous resource,” explained Thompson.
The new building also brings Bethune-Cookman on par with other institutions.
“I think it puts us in the conversation of having one of the most impressive facilities in which our programs will be housed in. In the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC) it puts us in the top. At the Football Championship Series (FCS) level, I don’t think you will find a better facility. It gives us a great foundation on which to build upon and plan to win championships,” Thompson told the Daytona Times.
What’s in center
The new facility is equipped with a state of the art weight room, sports medicine treatment, observation and rehabilitation rooms, X-ray capability, team meeting rooms, video rooms, offices and more.
The building took about four years from planning to its opening and was under construction for around a year.
“We knew it would take a while because we needed to raise the funds. Our administration did a great job of keeping this alive and at the forefront. Now, we are poised to open full time,” stated Thompson.
Private funds paid for the construction of the building, which cost $4.7 million.
“It was created and completed on such a shared vision of so many people who love the university and wanted to contribute their hard-earned dollars. We are glad that they gave to this project and we will pay homage to them when we dedicate this building,” Thompson remarked.
The City of Daytona Beach’s Midtown Area Redevelopment Board just approved the construction of a new football practice field at the site of the new facility.
The football team also has moved into the new center, leaving its current facility, which is located on International Speedway Boulevard between Jesse and Lincoln Streets.
“That will be phase II of the project. We will renovate the building into a completely new building, which will house our bowling, softball and tennis programs. It will also have academic support capabilities for all our student athletes, meeting rooms, showers and locker rooms,” added Thompson.