September 29 was a great day to be a Blue Jay, as the University of Saint Joseph officially cut the ribbon and welcomed all to the newly-expanded O’Connell Athletic Center, which now includes The Beekley Center for Student Health and Wellness and the Hoffman Lobby.
USJ President Rhona Free addressed the guests, who were donors, builders, alumni, Trustees, faculty, and staff. The 33,000 square-foot addition includes a new 700-seat gymnasium, four new locker rooms for women and men, a new state-of-the-art strength and conditioning center, and updates to the original building. The Beekley Center for Student Health and Wellness offers primary health care services to students while the Hoffman Lobby welcomes visitors and provides student-athletes a space to study and spend time with friends.
USJ President Rhona Free, who was one of many to cut the ribbon, said of the project “The expansion and renovation of the O’Connell Center highlights our mission to develop the whole person—their intellect, creativity, sense of fun and fairness, physical well-being, and competitive spirit.”
The O’Connell Center opened to students this past spring and was the site of some of USJ’s Commencement ceremonies in May. This academic year, the women’s volleyball team has already hosted several matches in the new gymnasium, and the men’s and women’s basketball teams are using it for their off-season workouts and looking forward to seeing the stands filled with fans. The men’s and women’s basketball teams are expected to kick off their seasons on November 6, with the men’s team hosting its season opener inside the new gym, which has more than double the capacity of the original one.
“It’s not only exciting for the basketball teams but also the school,” Blue Jays Men’s Basketball Head Coach Jim Calhoun told FOX61 Wednesday. “There are so many students coming through here now, and as we start to expand on our athletics and recreation, you’re going to get kids that will continue to make this expansion into a very special place.”
“The gymnasium, the physical fitness room, there’s all kinds of stuff to look at. Another thing is that the student-athletes hang out here a lot because it’s so comfortable; they all get to see each other. It’s really a wonderful meeting place, and hopefully, a very good winning place as we get into the winter months.” Calhoun added.