The Belk Gymnasium at UNCC has been under renovation for the past year, updating the exterior while adding space in the interior.
One of the older buildings on campus, built in 1970, the mainstay has had few changes through the years.
The most noticeable change is the front entrance and lobby. Donia Schauble, senior project manager with capital projects at UNCC, said that the school went to great lengths to match the new brick for the entrance with those on the existing towers to help the gym blend in with the newer buildings on campus.
“The new entrance lobby now opens up to the gym, and there won’t be a wall anymore between the gym and lobby,” said Schauble. The new design creates “this really transparent design solution where you can actually see from the outside, through the glass, straight into the gym, see all the activities and feel immediately engaged with the space and the activities within,” she said.
The renovations began in June 2014, with a projected cost of more than $19.7 million and is scheduled to be completed by Oct. 15. In addition to changing the layout inside the building, resurfacing the pool and adding modern air-conditioning systems, the project will also add 8,407 square feet – bringing the total to 130,296 square feet.
While the interior was reconfigured, adding classrooms, a lecture hall and handicapped facilities such as a shower and restroom – along with an elevator from the locker rooms to the pool for those who can’t take the stairs – the rich history remains.
Lovingly referred to as The Mine Shaft by students and alumni, the gym was the first on-campus home of the Charlotte 49ers basketball team, from 1970 to 1976. The home court advantage of the facility led to the 49ers being undefeated there from 1974 to 1976.
In 1977, the year that Charlotte advanced to the Final Four of the NCAA basketball tournament, the men’s team joined the Sun Belt conference. The gym’s 3,000-seat capacity was considered too small for conference games, and the men’s games were moved to the Charlotte Coliseum.
The women’s basketball and volleyball teams continued to call the gym home until the Dale F. Halton arena opened in 1996. During that period, the men’s team would play at least one, non-league game in The Mine Shaft each year.
Roy Fielding, senior lecturer and aquatics director in the department of kinesiology at UNCC, arrived at the college in 1978 and has some fond memories from the early years. He can remember Cedric Maxwell – one of the players from the 1977 team, who went on to play in the NBA – coming back to visit during the summers after he graduated.
“To see a man of his size do a one-and-a-half off the board was something else,” said Fielding. “I also saw Michael Jordan and Muggsy Bogues play a few pick-up games in the gym over the summers,” he said.
Fielding was the swim coach from 1983 to 1991, as the facility hosted men and women in collegiate swimming and diving competitions in the basement pool. Fielding said that the unique building, which will house the department of recreational services and the department of kinesiology, has served many programs at UNCC through the years.
“The students will find the new gym very welcoming, “ said Fielding. “Come in and kick the tires, find out what it is all about and in a healthy manner. For the fitness standpoint and the educational standpoint, you have a wonderful building, and the students need to use it,” he said.
Marty Price is a freelance writer: firstname.lastname@example.org
Work started in June 2014 with a projected cost of $19.7 million and is expected to be completed by Oct. 15. The renovations will add 8,407 square feet, bringing the building to 130,296 square feet. The Belk Gymnasium is closed until renovations are complete. For information, go to http://recservices.uncc.edu/facilities/belk