Where the grass next to Sweet Briar’s 77-year-old Daisy Williams Gymnasium stretches away into fields and trees, a crowd gathered on the evening of Friday, April 25. Pink hard hats handed out for the occasion bobbed against verdant green. Perched atop the heads of giddy Vixens and their supporters, the hats had exactly the desired color-coordinated effect.
Sweet Briar athletes past and present, board members, faculty, staff and administrators were there to break ground on a long-awaited
fitness and athletics facility. Many held green gardening trowels, which also were distributed so guests could participate in the ceremony when the time came to start digging.
Actual construction on the 53,000-square-foot structure will begin next month, with an estimated completion date in fall 2009. It will adjoin the existing gymnasium which, it was pointed out in one of several short speeches, is one of the oldest and smallest in the NCAA.
In addition to providing athletes a modern facility that equals or surpasses those at peer institutions, the building will serve as a social and wellness center for the entire Sweet Briar community.
“We are standing on what will become one of the hearts of the campus,” President Elisabeth Muhlenfeld told the gathering, referring to plans for the facility to also include a restaurant, a venue for campus events and other amenities.
Dr. Virginia Upchurch Collier ’72, chairman of the board of directors which gave the go ahead for the new construction last February, took a turn at the podium. To those who wear pink and green Vixen uniforms today, she noted that she had played freshman basketball in Williams Gym.
“And I thought it was outdated in 1968,” she said.
She said being able to move forward on the project — which has been talked about and planned for years — is an affirmation of the College’s accomplishments over the past few years, and shows commitment to everyone on campus. Collier, a medical doctor, noted the center will cultivate holistic wellness habits that last a lifetime.
Collier’s sister, Katherine Upchurch Takvorian ’72, who heads the committee raising money to pay for the $10 million building, also spoke briefly. The fundraising is not over, she cautioned.
“So don’t be surprised if I call you again.”