Lower Columbia College has rarely had trouble winning trophies.
The overflow of hardware that fills one of the offices inside freshly renovated Myklebust Gymnasium and Fitness Center bears testament to that. And those are the ones deemed unworthy of the six glass cases adorning the main hallway.
But as the finishing touches on a $9.5-million overhaul of the campus athletic center neared completion, there was a sense Wednesday afternoon LCC made that task a little bit easier.
“At Lower Columbia College, if we are playing in a middle school gym somewhere with stands on one side, we’re going to compete,” LCC Athletic Director Kirc Roland said. “Now we are going to compete with a great facility.”
It’s been a long time coming — nearly 10 years if you start from when students first approved a per-credit fee to help pay for the project — but LCC is finally ready to open the doors on its refurbished gymnasium.
It will host its first games since construction began in 2013 with a Red Devils basketball doubleheader at 1 p.m. Saturday against South Puget Sound.
It was worth the wait.
The red brick exterior and tall panel windows outside the entrance provide a striking first impression.
The 12,000-square foot fitness center, which includes a 36-foot tall climbing wall and free weight area, has a spacious, open-air feel.
And the rebranded gymnasium, complete with a new sound system, slick banners and refashioned locker rooms and team rooms, offer a modern makeover of the pre-existing structure.
Throw in the “luxury box” classroom with accordion-style windows overlooking the court, the numerous flat screen TVs scattered about the building, and the smoothie bar at the entrance, and there’s plenty of amenities to go around.
“I just love it,” Roland said. “You don’t see too many gyms with an observation area where boosters can go up and relax and watch the game.”
He’s not alone.
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LCC volleyball freshman Maddi Studer could hardly contain the squeals coming out of her mouth Wednesday as Roland showed off all the new nooks and crannies at the two-story facility.
“This is sweet,” she said.
The renovation of the 1959 building also includes offices for coaches, a studio for pilates, yoga and dance courses, and two state-of-the-art classrooms on the second floor.
The undertaking was paid for in part by a $2.50 per-credit fee approved by students in 2005, in addition to matching funds from the school and state.
As such, nearly all of the design features and amenities were approved by students, including the sand volleyball pit outside the east end of the building.
“This is completely student-driven,” Roland said. “This was the students that really put this together and made it happen.”
While the fitness center won’t open until April, the gym will host each of LCC’s final four home basketball doubleheaders this season.
Administrators felt it was important to fulfill a promise made to recruits two years ago that they would get the chance to play in a brand-new gymnasium their sophomore season.
After a year-and-a-half spent as basketball nomads, practicing in gyms at Kelso and Mark Morris, and playing their home games on Ted M. Natt Court, they finally have a home again.
“It’s all there for us,” Roland said. “We’re going to do the same thing we’ve always done, and now we’re going to have a place that will probably add a little more pride to the whole thing.”
It’s not hard to imagine it luring a few more high-end recruits to the LCC campus, as well.
Who knows? It might not be long before Roland has to add one or two more glass cases to lobby, too.
“It’s a nice problem to have,” he said.