For the last two years, the Indiana University Kokomo Cougars have competed in borrowed high school gyms, as they established women's volleyball and men's basketball teams. By the start of the 2013 season, though, the Cougars will finally have a court to call home.
It won't be just any basketball court — it will be part of the historic Memorial Gym, a legend among Indiana's premiere athletic facilities.
Interim Chancellor Susan Sciame-Giesecke partnered with the City of Kokomo and the Kokomo-Center Township School Corp. to announce plans to renovate the former Memorial Gym swimming pool into a college regulation sized basketball court.
"This is the next step for our athletics programs," she said. "We're excited to have a place our student athletes and their fans can call home, with IU Kokomo Cougars branding and colors. We appreciate this great opportunity to move our athletics forward."
Basketball player Jacob Faust said that having one gym for practices and games will make a difference.
"Right now it's like all of our games are away games, because we have to move our equipment, and we don't practice where we play games," he said. "Now we'll have time to get lots of practice shots in, and to build some home court advantage."
This season is the second for Cougar athletics, and the first in the NAIA. The women's volleyball team played at Maple Crest Middle School, while the men's basketball games are at Kokomo High School. During the first year, volleyball was at Northwestern High School, and basketball was at Western High School.
The gym, which could also be used for special events and meetings, will have a capacity of about 450 people. The court will be college regulation sized, which is about 10 feet longer than a high school court. Men's basketball Coach Jace Thompson said currently, players have to adjust to a longer court when they play other teams with a regulation court.
"The gym will be the best new addition to the athletic program we have had yet," he said. "This is a milestone in how IU Kokomo is branding its programs and taking them to a new level, and shows the support we get from our community in making our campus a first choice campus. Giving our student athletes a place to call theirs is important when recruiting new athletes."
Volleyball player Lael Burrus is excited to practice and play in an IU Kokomo gym. "This is going to be awesome to show recruits," she said. "We will appreciate being able to practice and play in the same place, and not have to move our equipment from place to place."
Reomey Northington, a basketball player, anticipates bigger crowds at the games when they have a home gym.
"A lot of my friends and family have to keep asking where we play," he said. "Now they'll know that we're playing at home."
Kokomo Mayor Greg Goodnight said the partnership benefits the city and campus, as it will allow the community to host more athletic events.
"Memorial Gym currently brings thousands of visitors," Goodnight said. "IU Kokomo is attracting a new set of visitors to Kokomo, who attend college sporting events."
Kokomo-Center Schools Superintendent Jeff Hauswald called the partnership "a win-win-win among the Kokomo Schools, IU Kokomo and the City of Kokomo, that will attract more events to downtown Kokomo, while helping renovate and preserve a downtown landmark."
Dean of Students Sarah Sarber said while the campus has appreciated use of area school gyms, having its own gym gives the athletic programs more flexibility in scheduling practices, games, and special events.
"This will truly be a game-changer for IU Kokomo athletics," she said. "From recruiting to practice to competition, this addition of the gym will be key. Our student athletes are very excited to have a true home court advantage for the first time."
Indiana University Kokomo serves north central Indiana.