Fond Farewell for Alumni Memorial Fieldhouse

Friday, March 7, 2008

Thousands of fans joined a parade of former men's and women's basketball players, coaches and Hawk mascots at last Thursday's men's home game against Xavier as Saint Joseph's University celebrated the final regular season game at Alumni Memorial Fieldhouse and the closing of the historic building for renovations.

Special guests included Athletics Hall of Famers Dr. Jack Ramsay '49 and Mike Bantom '73 and former Hawk standout and current Orlando Magic guard Jameer Nelson. Women's basketball alumnae Ellen Ryan, the program's first coach, and Susan Moran '02, its all-time leading scorer, joined current coach Cindy Griffin '91 at the game. University President Timothy R. Lannon, S.J., spoke at the dramatic closing ceremonies.

"Tonight we honor a building – and all who have called it home – which has meant so much to the daily life of Saint Joseph's University," Fr. Lannon said. "If these walls could talk, just imagine the stories they would tell.

"We would hear stories about some of the greatest players in college basketball history," he said. "We would hear the voices of generations of our students, echoing from the bleachers and connecting past and present. It's no wonder Sports Illustrated calls "The Hawks Will Never Die" the most defiant cheer in college sports.  That cheer was born in this building.

"Finally, we would feel the passion of thousands and thousands of Saint Joseph's graduates.  From 'The College' to the University, their passion is what makes Saint Joseph's the very special place we know and love."

Next year, both the men's and women's teams will play at the Palestra on the University of Pennsylvania's campus while the Fieldhouse, which opened in November 1949, undergoes significant renovations. When it reopens in late 2009 as the Michael J. Hagan '85 Arena, the building will include a wing dedicated to basketball offices and facilities and an expansion of at least 1,000 seats to the main arena's capacity.

Fr. Lannon also expressed the benefit of having the new arena built on the site of the Fieldhouse. "We'll enjoy new seats, modern amenities, a new court and, of course, great teams. But the walls aren't going anywhere," he said. "And neither are the memories."

--Jeffrey Martin '04, '05 (M.A.)

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