The roof leaks, the floor creaks, there’s a terrible draft. While there may not be a man-eating clam in Kates Gymnasium, it does not take Spongebob Squarepants on opposite day to point out that some renovations are needed.
For a building that has barely been updated since it was first used in 1967, the gym has held up remarkably well. If all goes according to plan, it will get a facelift this summer.
“I think in the end you’ll see a comprehensive new look,” Ashland Athletic Director Bill Goldring said.
A budget of $1.25 million has been set thanks to private donations set aside specifically for the project.
“We’re working on raising that entire amount,” Goldring said. “We’re getting closer.”
Ashland University President Fred Finks has taken a major role in the project along with Associate Vice President of Development Ralph Tomassi.
Coaches of the varsity sports that use Kates—men’s basketball, women’s basketball, volleyball and wrestling—have also been consulted along with vendors that have worked on large campus building projects in the past.
Many changes are in the works.
For starters, a new floor will be laid down to replace the original one that has been there since the gym was first built. Ashland has done its best to keep the floor in the best shape possible, but it has been fighting a losing battle for quite some time.
“It’s been remarkable,” Goldring said. “It’s 45 years old. People say it’s a bad floor and I say, ‘no, it’s a good floor. It’s lasted for 45 years.’ It’s really showing its wear.”
Another thing that needs some serious work is the lighting. New lights will be put in that will give the gym an entirely new feel.
The other major concern is the bleachers. The current bleachers are out-of-date and do not meet safety code. New ones will need to include handrails and clear walkways.
There will also be some VIP seats similar to the ones at Jack Miller Stadium.
While the new seating will not increase the capacity of the gym, it will provide a safer and more comfortable atmosphere for fans.
Other changes will include a new basket system for basketball, a volleyball system, sound system, a new scoreboard and new doors. The gym will also be re-painted and cleaned.
Depending on how everything fits into the budget, a new HVCA system may also fit into the plans. The locker rooms, weight rooms and field house are not part of the renovations, as the university wants to focus specifically on the gym itself.
The success of the women’s basketball team has certainly accelerated talks and the flow of money towards renovating the gym.
So has the upswing in other events Ashland has been chosen to host, such as the NCAA wrestling Super Regional this weekend.
“This would take care of at least four varsity sports in a great way,” Goldring said.
The university would also have a chance to host other outside events, such as the Ohio High School Athletic Association basketball tournaments that left Kates because it did not match the organization’s expectations.
As for the new look, Goldring says it will live up to women’s basketball coach Sue Ramsey’s request that it be “classy and clean.”
Kates is the place where AU showcases all of its athletic successes at the NCAA level with the banners that are hung on the walls.
“We don’t want to forget that, but there might be a new, fresher way of doing that than the banners the way they’re configured,” Goldring said.
If Ashland earns the rights to host the NCAA women’s basketball Midwest Regional tournament—which it likely will—the soonest renovations could start would be March 19. The volleyball team returns to campus Aug. 12.
“We’ll make some contingencies for the beginning of the school year but at this point that’s the time frame that we want to get that done,” Goldring said.
The finer details still need to be worked out, but at least one large decision has already been made.
“I guarantee you one thing, there will be some purple in the gym,” Goldring said.