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LIU Blackbirds Spread Their Wings In State-of-the-Art Facility

Long Island University’s growth in the right direction has finally come about. The Blackbirds will no longer stage their home games at the Schwartz Athletic Center in the old Paramount Theatre. Instead they will permanently play their contests in the new more spacious Athletic, Recreation and Wellness Center with the main entrance on 161 Ashland Place between DeKalb and Willoughby Avenues in downtown Brooklyn. The capacity of the gym arena is 2300, as compared to the old facility of 1000. An NCAA Division I program is finally growing in the right direction here in Brooklyn. The Blackbirds got off in the right direction with their fifth win of the season in 16 outings, a 63-60 victory over Sacred Heart. The administration, coaches, players and students are thrilled that they finally have a state-of-the-art center, which features a 17,000 square foot basketball arena, with comfortable bleachers on all sides. “This new gym is great,” said junior forward Esa Maki-Tuloskas, who goes down in Blackbird history as making the first field goal on a dunk, and converted on the first three-point or long-range shot against Sacred Heart in a Northeast Conference game, witnessed by 825 spectators. “We’ve been waiting for it for so long. And we finally got it. My first impressions of the gym was amazing. The gym is an incentive to go out and win.” “We have a great facility and are so fortunate to have it,” Head Coach Jim Ferry said. “A lot of people worked very hard to put it together. Anybody would want to come see the place for it’s the best in the city. “ “The new facility brings out a lot of excitement and brings us a lot (more) fans,” offered junior guard James Williams. “And we’ll be able to recruit (better than we’ve been doing). It’s a nice building to be in. We see this facility from our dorms (dormitory) every day.” About a week and a half prior to the Sacred Heart game on January 26, the players started practicing in it. “The facility is a lot bigger than what I thought it would be,” Williams continued. “I love it.” The largest building project in the Campus’ 79-year-history, the $40 million, 112,000 square-foot complex is not only used for basketball when the entire Center will be completed. There will be an eight-lane 25-yard regulation size swimming pool, a therapy pool, two weight rooms, aerobic room, training room and batting cage. In addition there will be two tennis courts. The Blackbirds will add another sport-women’s swimming-in due time to the athletic department’s intercollegiate athletics. The Blackbirds had a swimming team in the ‘60’s and ‘70’s when the swimmers performed their specialties elsewhere. Besides the students, faculty, and alumni using the facility, it will be open to the residents of the community. Actually the planning stages of the new facility, located about one block east from the old gym, began some four years ago. “It took us a good two years to build it,” athletic director John Suarez said. “Right now its about 80 percent done. The arena is done. The offices are (completed). We need to finish up the fitness center. There’s actually six floors with locker rooms all the way down in the basement. We have to do some more electrical work. “The facility is just phenomenal. Maybe, I’m a little biased, but I think it’s going to be the best college basketball facility in the city of New York….I love Fordham’s Rose Hill and Mahattan’s Draddy Gym but this place is really state-of-the-art and a big lift for college basketball, and hopefully also high school basketball. “The old gym will serve for recreation and intramurals. In due time, the administration will turn it into a student center. Down the road, we wouldn’t mind hosting PSAL games. Capital Projects helped build the new center. “My group headed by Peter Tymus is responsible for developing and opening the building,” said David Mandell, assistant director of Capital Projects. “This was many years in the making and it’s our building. Over hundreds of people worked in this building to get it open.” Added Associate Vice-President for Capital Projects Tymus: “I’m in charge of construction for the University. We wanted to do this building for about 10 years…The University looked at 21 different architectural firms. “I think everybody-President, Provost, students, staff, and faculty-are very happy with what we ultimately were able to build. Since I went to Brooklyn Tech High School down the block, this building was a labor of love.” Tymus is very grateful for the opportunity to be involved with LIU so close to Tech, where it all started for him. “This building is a wonderful spectacle,” said Bernadette Walker, Dean of Students for LIU. “It’s great for us and great for Brooklyn.” Most important, and for the immediate concern, is that the Blackbirds hope the new facility will help with their recruiting those high school athletes for basketball and the rest of the sports.

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