“Wow,” said Volkar, who become involved with the school after attending his first Zags’ basketball game in December 2011. “I’m overwhelmed. Sandy and I had seen plans for the facility but there was no way those plans portrayed how this turned out, how spacious it is, how well done everything is.”
The 51,240-square foot building certainly has a ‘wow factor’ to go with the widespread impact it will have on 300-plus student-athletes, including academics, recruiting, training, practice, as well as a salute to the school’s history and an athletic Hall of Fame.
“It’s another chapter in the development of Gonzaga athletics and more broadly Gonzaga University,” President Thayne McCulloh said. “Gonzaga athletics has allowed us to open the doors of this institution to our city, our state and this part of the world.”
The Volkar Center features a Hall of Honor, a basketball practice court, weight room and film room on the first floor. The second floor has several offices that overlook the practice court and a sizable hospitality room on game nights. There’s a short staircase to a level with athletic department offices.
The top floor houses student-athlete academic support, including study areas, meeting rooms and 25 computers.
The Volkar Center enhances the Zags’ ability to “chase three things,” said athletic director Mike Roth, describing those as winning sports programs, winning in the classroom and winning in the community.
“Along with that, though, we’ll never be satisfied,” Roth said. “Whatever we achieve, we’ll always try to achieve more.”
The Volkar Center is located on what was formerly green space near the front of the Martin Centre.
“We used to run lines on the grass right where I’m standing (on the new practice court),” said forward Zykera Rice, who just completed her junior year on the women’s team. “I’m pretty sure there was a tree where that hoop is now. I came here three ago. It’s crazy to see this.”
There are a few things left to be completed, including some interactive displays in the Hall of Honor. Dozens of photographs decorate the walls representing numerous sports. There’s one of Carl Maxey, an individual champion on GU’s 1950 national championship boxing team, another of women’s basketball star Courtney Vandersloot and three separate Sports Illustrated covers featuring Adam Morrison, Kelly Olynyk and Kyle Wiltjer.
There are displays for Gonzaga All-Americans, academic All-Americans and the Zags’ 2017 national finalists. There’s a tribute to Gonzaga legend John Stockton with a 3-foot statue of the Hall of Fame point guard.
Former GU guard Eric McClellan, who recently finished up his professional season in Mexico, was at the Volkar Center on Wednesday checking out Hall of Fame displays. He shook his head when asked if he’d seen the rest of the first floor.
He shook his head, in disbelief, when he stepped inside the film room to see several rows of comfortable leather chairs and a large, wall-mounted TV screen. “No way,” he said.
It was onto the weight room, where several weight-lifting stations have air-pressure resistance in addition to traditional weights. The machines offer feedback for users, including data on coordination of strength, balance and range of motion.
McClellan was blown away, and he’s just two years removed from his playing days. Current athletes experienced similar reactions when they first toured the facility.
Athletes used to pack the 1,500-square foot academic center. The academic center inside the Volkar Center spans 15,000 square feet.
“It’s so cool to go from all of us cramming into a small space to having a view and study rooms,” Rice said. “And we don’t have to ask one of the study advisers if we can use their office.”
The Volkar Center is a game-changer in numerous aspects, including recruiting. Recruits are influenced by more than just a team’s win-loss record. They study the arena, training center, practice facilities, even uniforms.
“For a 17-, 18-year-old kid seeing stuff like this and what this program is known for, it’s a win-win situation,” point guard Josh Perkins said. “It’s hard to say no.”
The Volkar Center, new videoboards inside the McCarthey Athletic Center and freshly remodeled men’s basketball locker room weren’t around when Perkins arrived on campus four years ago.
“It just speaks to where the program is and where it’s going,” Perkins said. “Thank you isn’t enough for the people who did this, but we’re just really appreciative of it.”
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