By Andrew Donchak
Division I basketball’s oldest active facility, the historic Rose Hill Gym, will be undergoing long-awaited renovations over the next two summers. The court itself will be renamed the “Frank McLaughlin Family Basketball Court” in honor of former student, athlete, coach and director of Intercollegiate Athletics and Recreation Frank McLaughlin, Fordham College at Rose Hill (FCRH) ’69. The naming comes as the first segment of a fundraising effort aimed at collecting a total of $2.5 million from donors. As of the beginning of April, the school had already accrued over $1.3 million towards this cause.
Current director of Intercollegiate Athletics and Recreation David Roach explained that the gym is not exactly being completely overhauled. The school intends to replace the lower-level seating and hardwood floor, as well as introduce a “hospitality suite” in the upper balcony.
Roach noted that “given the fact the gym is used for so many things, there is not enough time to do all we want in one stretch.” As a result, the school has opted to split the renovations across two separate summers. The old bleachers will be taken out in early June of this year and should be replaced no later than Aug. 1. The hospitality suite and the new hardwood floor will be added in the summer of 2018.
Roach also pointed out that the intensity of any renovations to the site have to be at least somewhat tempered, as the school is “working in a building that is 90-plus years old, something that’s not easy.” That said, he expects the changes to make the game-viewing experience at Fordham “a more comfortable one,” which is the aim of increasing the number of chair backs on both sides of the court.
The effort also intends to contribute any surplus money raised above $2.5 million to helping the men’s and women’s basketball teams away from home, in the form of chartered flights to and from their games.
While many students and members of the Fordham community have recently spoken out against the school’s allocation of resources, there is little denying that the 92-year-old facility is overdue for a facelift. Sabrina Sabio, Gabelli School of Business Lincoln Center (GSBLC) ’18, mentioned that “since the donations are being made in the name of the gym, the school has an obligation to fulfill the wishes of its donors.” Sabio also acknowledged that she’d “like to see a full reconstruction, as it would show recruits that they’re being thought of in a way that a new spectator hospitality suite doesn’t necessarily accomplish. That said, it’s altogether understandable that the money just isn’t there at this time.”
Anthony Piccinich, FCRH ’17, also expressed optimism for the renovations, stating that, “Investing in the basketball program could make more money for the school, which would be a good thing for everyone.” He also pointed at the age of the facility as a reason to embrace the changes. While he considered the implications of the ongoing protest for faculty healthcare, an alternative point was addressed. This is the fact that the plan most likely predates the eruption of the healthcare issue on campus and are not constructing an entirely new facility.
McLaughlin served as the Rams’s athletic director for 27 years, and in 2016 he was inducted into the Eastern Collegiate Athletic Conference Hall of Fame.
The Rose Hill Gym has housed Fordham basketball every season since 1925, save for the span of time it spent as a barracks during World War II. The 3,200-seat gym opened on Jan. 16, 1925, in a game Fordham won against Boston College. The Rose Hill Gym was also the site of Power Memorial High School, UCLA and NBA legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s last high school game.