Tale of the Week - Woltzen Gymnasium Officially Open for Competition
Athletics - posted on 9/12/2005
On Sept. 6, the Lakeland women's volleyball team opened up another hopeful Lake Michigan Conference season at home against Edgewood, but this year, the team has a brand new place to call home.
The team's three game victory over the Eagles marked the official opening of the Moose and Dona Woltzen Gymnasium in the sparkling expansion to the Todd Wehr Center.
The multi million dollar project, part of the Legacy for Lakeland campaign that also helped construct a 96-bed, state-of-the-art residence hall a few hundred yards away, added new locker rooms, staff offices, training facilities, a 4,400 square foot fitness center, and classrooms, but on this night it was the gym that took center stage.
Planning and fund raising began for the expansion began in the year prior to the building's June 2004 groundbreaking.
"The entire process only took about two years," said athletic director Jane Bouche, "which, I think, is extremely quick.
"It was quite a sense of relief last Tuesday when they served the first ball. I felt really good that it was ready to go for our first night."
The Woltzen Gymnasium has been covered with wood flooring and fitted with seating capable of packing 1,200 fans in, with a planned increase to 1,800 in the near future.
"It's like a natural high being in there," said head volleyball coach Chad Schreiber. "I don't think that's going to wear off any time this year."
Emphasis was put on installing the wood floor because it would hopefully cut down on injuries. Last season, injuries ran rampant in volleyball and women's basketball, and while no major injuries were recorded, head men's basketball coach Gary Grzesk said his players were feeling the wear and tear of the season to abnormal extents.
"By the end of last year, our knees were gone," Grzesk said. "For our players to play on the hardwood floor is huge."
"It's easier on your body, your legs and your knees," said junior Erin Helbing, a right side hitter on the volleyball team.
Another thing the coaches hope the new expansion will accomplish is help the recruiting process. Most agree that simply being able to show recruits brand new facilities will draw them to Lakeland and some coaches have already seen it have an affect on their recruiting efforts.
"For men's volleyball," Schreiber said, "I think it made an impact on men's recruiting to show them how serious you are about men's volleyball and the facilities they have to play in. I would say it definitely helped probably about half of our recruiting class."
The new gym also is a lot brighter than the former gym thanks to improved lighting and a bit louder courtesy of an impressive sound system. Brighter lines on the court have also been painted, including a colossal "LC" logo at mid-court, just in case visitors forget where they are.
"Hopefully it puts a little bit of shock in [opposing teams] that they're coming into a place that means business, and in to a school that's serious about its sports," Schreiber said.
If the first home match is any indicator, the women's volleyball team indeed does mean business. Their next match at the Wehr Center is on Sept. 27 against Alverno at 7 p.m.
Women's basketball officially opens the basketball courts with their annual Tip-Off Tournament on November 18, and the men hold their home opener on November 22 against Maranatha Baptist.
The fitness center is open to all students seven days a week.
On Sat. Oct. 8, there will be a ceremony celebrating the conclusion of the Legacy for Lakeland campaign. Check in is at 10 a.m. Tours of the Wehr addition, the residence hall, and the renovation of Chase are at 10:30, and a ceremony will be held in front of the Wehr Center at 12:30 p.m., followed by the Homecoming football game against MacMurray College at 1.
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