KOKOMO, Ind. — Cougar fans packed the tailgate party and grand opening of Indiana University Kokomo's new gymnasium on Wednesday (August 21), with more than 350 people gathered to celebrate the campus' historic milestone.
Students, athletes, fans, community supporters, faculty, and staff showed their Cougar pride as the official cutting of the ribbon took place at the Cougar Gym, located at Apperson Way and Superior Street in downtown Kokomo. The first women's volleyball game of the season followed the festivities.
"Now we have a home," said Brian Arwood, student body president. "The location is perfect because it's close to campus, and there are other things to do downtown before and after the games. That's great for us, and it's great for the city."
Interim Chancellor Susan Sciame-Giesecke cut the ribbon alongside Kokomo Mayor Greg Goodnight and Kokomo Schools Superintendent Jeff Hauswald, whose partnership made the gym a reality.
"We couldn't be more happy and more proud," Sciame-Giesecke said. "Tonight is about saying thank you for all the support we've received from our community."
The opening of the gym was a homecoming for the athletes, who are excited to practice and play on their own home court.
Junior Lael Burrus joined the volleyball team in its first year, and was thrilled to open her third season in the new gym.
"It's awesome," she said. "I didn't think we would get our own gym while I was still here, so I am grateful and thankful."
Many of the basketball team members cheered in the Cougar Crazies student section, and look forward to their turn playing in front of the home crowd.
Jerome Campbell, a sophomore, said he is proud to call it his home court.
"This is better than anything I could have imagined," he said. "It's going to be a great place for all our athletes. We're just so glad to have someplace to call our own."
The gym is part of Kokomo's historic Memorial Gym, a legend among Indiana athletic facilities. Sciame-Giesecke partnered with Goodnight and the city council members and Hauswald and his school board members to convert the former swimming pool into a college regulation basketball court.
She recognized both men, and their boards, for their vision and dedication to the campus.
"This partnership model, between IU Kokomo, the City of Kokomo, and Kokomo Schools, is being talked about all over the state," she said. "They knew we had a great start to our athletic program, but we needed a home. We wouldn't have a gym without these people. We have one because they believe in us."
Hauswald said school officials had talked about using the former swimming pool as a storage area, or about demolishing it, so he and the school board were happy to find a way to repurpose it to benefit the community. He likes the idea of Kokomo's student athletes practicing right next door in Memorial Gym.
"I'd like to see our students build relationships with IU Kokomo, and maybe become Cougars after they've been Wildkats."
Goodnight was pleased to partner with the campus and school to provide a benefit to the entire community, and commended his city council.
"It is an honor to partner with such innovators," he said. "We are very fortunate to have people who work together to do what is best for the community."
Indiana University Kokomo serves north central Indiana.