Out With the Old, In With the New: Club Sports Teams Praise McCann Renovation

A 3,000-seat arena.

An indoor turf facility.

A 6,000-foot team weight room.

An ESPN Control Room.

A 133-meter track.

Two NCAA regulation-size basketball courts.

These are a few of McCann’s favorite things.

After the long, long, long-awaited opening, the facility is finally finished. No one was happier than the collective members of the student body… except perhaps the construction workers.

McCann was all hustle and bustle in the first few days following the opening. Soon, though, those that inhabit the campus reverted back to their daily routines. The circulation of people entering and exiting the building went back to Division I athletes, gym junkies, and the occasional student workers.

Still, it’s progress. An audience that can attest to that? The club sports squads. From ultimate frisbee to ice hockey, to rugby to lacrosse, men and women from all sports benefitting from the enhanced resources. It wasn’t so long ago that the idea of this new, renovated space seemed like a wild imagination.

Let’s take a trip down memory lane.

Veterans of the college can vividly remember a time when the walls of their recreational basketball courts were oozing with dreary-grey colors, seemingly sucking the energy out of its participants rather than inspiring them.

A time when dead spots on a basketball court were more common than flat ground. A time when the area dedicated to the general student population in McCann was overwhelmingly underwhelming. Treadmill runners could overlook this area, coined the “grey gym” by students, and examine the struggling faces of ultimate frisbee players running across the rubber floors, playing their own game of avoid-the-bubble-or-break-your-ankle. Or the club volleyball players, who could try all they want to jump-serve, but knew deep down that they’d never figure it out because the physical space they were practicing in wouldn’t allow it. Dan Kelerchian, the senior captain of the men’s club volleyball team, recalled the jarring practices that took place in the “grey gym.” Eventually, and luckily, they were given time to use McCann’s main court for practice.

“Back when we used to be in the grey gym, things were pretty difficult — between the uneven floors, the bubbles, and the lack of serving space,” Kelerchian said. “So transitioning into the ‘old’ McCann was fairly easy. Athletics was very good about making sure we had court time.”

For those that aren’t veterans, whose nights aren’t spackled with the nightmares of living in such recreational poverty, the “Coming Fall 2019” dream is far less feverish. The transformation seemed to take ages. Alas, it arrived, not in Fall 2019, but rather Winter 2020. It’s here, though. Surprisingly, there are no known complaints. In fact, the gym seems to be a legitimate game-changer for many of the 16 club sports on campus.

It’s been roughly one month since the grand opening, and teams like club volleyball, a team that is in the midst of a riveting season, can see a direct impact on their game.

“Transitioning into this gym has been amazing,” Kelerchian said. “The amount of space we have is great. Our serving space is fantastic. As a team, we aren’t much of a serving team, but now that we have the space to do it, we could be.” Now ranked no. 9 in the nation, the team hopes that their increased use of McCann can boost them up a few more spots, and deliver them a win going into their upcoming tournament on March 8.

Similarly to the men’s volleyball team, the club ice hockey team has a lot on the line this season. As they wind down for the year, they’ve still been able to credit the “new McCann” for many of the improvements they see on the ice. Though they practice at a rink in the town of Poughkeepsie, their lift schedules and motivation have been entirely revolutionized thanks to the renovations.

“We assumed that people who go [to the gym] on their own wouldn’t do as much compared to an hour of structured lift,” team captain Brendan Buckley admits. “We think it’s amazing that athletics is letting club sports use this [team weight room]. Everyone’s really happy; having a structured hour every day to lift has helped us tremendously.” This new level of access has allowed the ice hockey team to go from lifting casually, and on their own, to a mandatory five times a week lift. That physical improvement can be more than seen on the ice; it can be appreciated and praised.

On top of the renovation, the hiring of Julie Byron as the director of club and intramural sports has had an impact of its own. Since the beginning of her tenure, there’s been the introduction of a new club sport, men’s lacrosse, as well as exceptional accomplishments from already-existing club sports like men’s volleyball, ice hockey, and the eSports team. Many of the players on club teams credit her efforts to improving their communication with athletics as a whole and improving their experiences on the teams.

“I think it does give a good opportunity for them to be a cohesive team,” Byron said. “It gives them a place they know they can go to. Whether that is to practice a specific technique for their sport… some of my teams are upstairs using the multi-purpose rooms for video breakdown, or instructional videos. There’s a lot of stuff you can do in the building.” Unsurprisingly, reaction to such amenities has been overwhelmingly positive.

“I have not heard one negative response,” she said.

While some club teams thrive off of this continued success, they don’t let it go to their heads. They’ve garnered success through their own efforts, and the efforts of their coaches and the teams who have come before them. Others – men’s lacrosse, in particular – are brand new and still working out kinks and routines. But wherever the team sits as in its history, Marist fans can rest easy. Their favorite club squads have a new, functioning, bubble-free gym. So fewer rolled ankles. And, perhaps, a few more championships.

Edited by Will Bjarnar

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