The University of the Virgin Islands' newly renovated Sports and Fitness Center has come a long way from its origins as an old U.S. Navy seaplane hangar. When it opens to the public next month, the center will be the biggest indoor sports venue in all the Eastern Caribbean.
A tour of what a nearly $10 million renovation, now nearly completed, can do showed what will soon be physical education locker rooms, varsity locker rooms, the green room (a room for celebrities), a weight room, an aerobics room, a VIP room and offices for athletic coaches. The new center is more than 64,000 feet square.
The facility holds two official-size basketball courts and a portable wooden floor for basketball and volleyball. There is also a dual cross-court for teaching and practices and a state-of-the-art training room for treating sports-related injuries.
The university's director of facilities, Leo Francis, said the center is also flood proofed: air-sealed locking devices prevent up to two feet of water from entering the building.
The firm of Daniels, Mendenhall, Johnson and Mann was the principal architect for the project.
"This is a turning point in the history of the Virgin Islands," boasted UVI president Orville Kean. The facility was built in the late 1930s to house Navy seaplanes. The expansion to the old UVI Field House is 25 feet on both the east and west sides and 50 feet on the southern end. The center will be able to hold 2,500 to 3,000 for basketball games and up to 4,000 for concerts, graduations and other nonathletic events.
The center will have an official grand opening at 7 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 13, 2001. On that night, UVI will induct the first group of athletes into its Athletic Hall of Fame. The hall of fame induction ceremony will be followed by inaugural basketball games between the UVI Bucs women's and men's basketball teams against the Universidad Metropolitana de Puerto Rico.
Tickets for the grand opening will be available starting Saturday at the following outlets: on St. Thomas at Modern Music, Krystal Gift and Galore, Parrot Fish Records, Reichhold Center and UVI Bookstore on both campuses. Tickets also will be available on St. John at Connections and are free to the general public with a limit of four per person.
UVI hopes the center will become "the number one spot for holiday tournaments," according to Athletic Director Peter Sauer. It will be furnished with telescopic bleachers on all four sides of the court. The center will not be open for public purposes.
UVI currently administers five sports: basketball, volleyball, tennis, weightlifting and track and field.