Nov. 4, 2012
By Jon Cooper, Sting Daily
It used to be that the intersection of 10th Avenue and Fowler Street was something of a back-door entrance into the Georgia Tech campus.
That is no longer the case.
The building of McCamish Pavilion has put an attention-grabbing attraction on the corner to Fowler Street that they have arrived at someplace special.
“When you come to the corner of 10th and Fowler Street, the northern-most entrance on to campus, you’re going to be greeted by the McCamish Pavilion and the Byers Tennis Complex,” said former Director of Athletics Dan Radakovich. “You’re going to continue down Fowler Street and you’re going to see our track and our softball field. We have our Zelnak Practice facility attached to [McCamish], which is incredibly important for us to have built by Steve and Judy Zelnak, who gave us the money to do that. We couldn’t do [the McCamish Pavilion] project until we had a basketball practice facility. Then you have the Brock Football Practice Facility and our baseball field and you kind of end up right at the foot of Bobby Dodd Stadium at Grant Field.
“So this is that athletic nexus area, that corridor that brings people to campus,” he added. “There are a lot of people that come to our events and the school is stepping up and doing some great improvement along Fowler Street to really make it an attractive boulevard for people to come on to campus and be welcome.”
McCamish was the latest in a series of projects that upgraded athletic facilities.
Among the projects were the 2002 refurbishing of Russ Chandler Stadium, an eight-month job that cost approximately $9.7 million. That was followed by the opening of Shirley Clements Mewborn Field in March 2009, an approximate $4.99 million project. In October 2009 the Zelnak Center opened. That was a $5 million project, made possible by a generous gift from Steve and Judy Zelnak. In 2011, the Brock Practice Facility was built, which cost between $6 and $7 million, $3.5 million of which was committed in a gift from John and Mary Brock. Now there is McCamish Pavilion, an approximately $45 million project, made possible by a generous $15 million gift from the family of Hank McCamish.
This weekend will be a very busy one at McCamish, as the men’s basketball team hosts Tulane Friday night at 7 p.m. in the building’s inaugural event.
Less than 48 hours later, the women’s basketball team plays its first game at McCamish, hosting the University of Tennessee, an event that also will salute the 60th anniversary of women being included as part of the student body at Georgia Tech and the 40th anniversary of Title IX. Legendary Tennessee Head Coach Pat Summitt will be saluted in a ceremony as part of the festivities.
Both men’s basketball head coach Brian Gregory and women’s basketball head coach MaChelle Joseph have talked about the privilege of their teams being able to play in a facility as grand as McCamish Pavilion and the Institute’s commitment to its student-athletes, as well as its alumni and fanbase in constructing the facility.
“We’ve talked time and time again about the state-of-the-art facility that we are moving into,” said Gregory, who begins his second season as Tech’s head coach. “It’s great to open up a new page in Georgia Tech Basketball but still have some of the great traditional aspects of this building as well.
“Every day we challenge our guys to give a first-class effort in the classroom as young men and as players,” he said. “It’s our job to surround them in a first-class environment. The Zelnak Center gives them that on a daily basis with our practice facility and our weight room. Our academic facility gives them that as a student-athlete.”
Joseph, who will open her 10th campaign on the Flats, credits Radakovich and the entire Georgia Tech Athletic Administration not only for McCamish but for the sprucing up of the area surrounding it. She expects fans coming to the new building to be pleasantly surprised with what they see.
“[Radakovich] really transformed not only this building, but the outside of the campus by making this area more accessible to people on the outside of campus with 10th Street,” she said. “The way that we’ve opened up the arena, the front doors open up to 10th Street, it welcomes people in to Tech. That has to be one of the biggest transformations for this institution, the fact that now 10th Street is inviting people to come on campus. Before you didn’t really know what this building was. Now it’s very obvious what it is and it’s a beautiful arena.”
Interim Director of Athletics Paul Griffin pointed out that the Athletic Association’s commitment won’t end with the construction of McCamish Pavilion. Fans coming to the games this weekend or simply driving by McCamish will notice the Byers Tennis Complex, which is still in the works.
“I think McCamish is a big, bold statement from Georgia Tech to anyone who wants to hear and listen that we’re committed to excellence in basketball,” said Griffin. “The most important thing, that people might not notice, is the depth of commitment. As is going on across the street, [we’ve] made a similar investment in our tennis programs and when that’s finished in January, that will provide those athletes with the absolute best place for them to practice, compete, develop and have all their matches.”