The Pantagraph from Bloomington, Illinois on November 18, 1988 · Page 50
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The Pantagraph from Bloomington, Illinois · Page 50

Bloomington, Illinois
Issue Date:
Friday, November 18, 1988
Page 50
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6A Pantagraph TIP-OFF '88, Frl., Nov. 18, 1988 Pantagraph TIP-OFF '88, Fri.. Nov. 18, 1988 7A So long, Morton . . . Hello. Re V x y f i : ... . ... -& rr - I .dTS ' - -' W i-rt" " I " ' y rm. ' - -1 1 i y j ykS&mmW' 9 . I- .. -'...:.,!. Illinois State University basketball fans have filled Horton Field House to the rafters many times since the facility opened in 1963. Donewald says move a plus for program By RANDY KINDRED Pantagraph staff Bob Donewald realizes there is a price that conies with leaving Horton Field House, but it is one he is willing to pay. The Illinois State University basketball coach concedes a bit of Horton's noisy, electric atmosphere may be lost in the move to Redbird Arena. But to Donewald, the real question is: What will be gained? The answer, he said, is much. "There are certain things you have to give up in order to move on," said Donewald, who is 118-25 at Horton since coming to ISU in 1978. "The things we're going to miss is the short side of it. "On the up side is that it clearly establishes to major college athletics throughout the country what kind of impact our program has had on the university. University officials place such importance on it, they have seen fit to spend between $17 and $20 million on a first-class basketball facility. "Others will realize the benefits of it as well. The women's basketball and volleyball teams will have the opportunity to play there, as well as the possibility of bringing in concerts and conventions and that type of thing." The arena has become a reality because of the success Donewald's teams have enjoyed. In the 1980s, ISU has made three NCAA Tournament and three National Invitation Tournament ap pearances. "All the teams that have competed throughout the 80s have brought Illinois State University basketball to a stature unequaled in its history," Donewald said. "I'm proud of the accomplishments of those young people. "When I first came here it (an arena) wasn't even a remote possibility. It wasn't the efforts of one individual. It was the collective efforts of many over a period of years that helped realize it." Donewald is hesitant to pick out one game as his most memorable at Horton. But if he had to choose, it would likely be the 844 victory over Tulsa for the 1983 Missouri Valley Conference Tournament championship. "From a university standpoint, probably the most meaningful was the Valley championship game in 1983," Donewald said. "It provided Illinois State University with its first opportunity to play in the NCAA Tournament. "When I reflect back on the crowd that day, I can never remember being involved in a game in which the crowd was involved as emotionally as that one was." Donewald said the arena has been built to provide a similar atmosphere to that of Horton. But, he added, "I don't think you're really going to duplicate what was defined by Sports Illustrated in 1983 as 'a glorified high school facility. " That facility has been the scene of some great moments, ones that stick in the memories of ISU fans like glue. Donewald will carry images with him as well. "My kids have grown up watching their dad's teams play there and (wife) Kathy has sat in the same seat for 10 years," he said. "I also think about the number of kids who have played here who I've been able to have a unique association with." By RANDY KINDRED Pantagraph staff It came in as a godsend in 1963, freeing Illinois State University's men's basketball team from the cramped quarters of McCormick Gymnasium. In January, Horton Field House goes out as the home of ISU basketball, and the memories are nothing short of divine for those who have coached, played, or cheered for Red-bird teams there. Doug Collins heads the middle category, having starred at ISU from 1970 to 1973. The two-time Ail-American has gone on to fame and fortune as a .National Basketball Association player and coach, but his image of Horton remains as vivid as the day he left. "To me Horton Field House will always be the most exciting college basketball arena," said Collins, coach of the NBA's Chicago Bulls. "It is a very, very special place to me. The noise level was so great there. "I always got a certain tingling feeling walking into that place. I will never forget that. I really hope the new arena has that same appeal for the players now and the fans alike. But for me, there will never be a place like Horton Field House." Collins is one of many who hope Redbird Arena can approach Horton's atmosphere, a deafening roar which has inspired ISU players and intimidated their opponents. Illinois State has compiled a 25-year record of 264-67 at Horton for a .797 winning percentage. The raucous setting has helped bring about a number of those victories, from Jim Collie's tenure as coach in the 1960s to the present Bob Donewald regime. Perhaps no one has a better feel for Horton than Collie, who coached there from 1963 to 1970 and has attended many Redbird home games since. Collie, who coached ISU from 1957 to 1970 and had a 209-139 record, compiled a 58-30 mark in Horton. Early on, he said, crowds were small. But when the NCAA Division II Redbirds put together winning seasons from 1966 through 1969, the stands began to fill up and the excitement build. The highlight was a 25-3 season in 1967-1968. "In the late 60s when we had out-standing teams, the place was packed," said Collie, who still teaches a basketball coaching class at ISU. "It's a grand place. I just hope we're not giving up anything. Places take on a certain character after awhile." At first, Horton took on the look of a massive facility, providing Collie and his players with more room than mey ever coum nave imagined. ISU at Horton Field House Season W-L Pet. Coach 1963- 64 8-4 .667 James Collie 1964- 65 3-8 .273 James Collie 1965- 66, 7-5 .583 James Collie 1966- 67 9-3 .750 James Collie 1967- 68 15-1 .938 James Collie 1968- 69 9-3 .750 James Collie 1969- 70 7-6 .538 James Collie 1970- 71 8-4 .667 Will Robinson 1971- 72 7-3 .700 Will Robinson 1972- 73 11-1 .923 Will Robinson 1973- 74 13-1 .929 Will Robinson 1974- 75 10-0 1.000 Will Robinson 1975- 76 13-1 .929 Gene Smithson 1976- 77 12-2 .857 Gene Smithson 1977- 78 14-0 1.000 Gene Smithson 1978- 79 13-1 .929 Bob Donewald 1979- 80 15-1 .938 Bob Donewald 1980- 81 10-5 .667 Bob Donewald 1981- 82 10-2 .833 Bob Donewald 1982- 83 16-1 .941 Bob Donewald 1983- 84 13-1 .929 Bob Donewald 1984- 85 12-3 .800 Bob Donewald 1985- 86 8-5 .615 Bob Donewald 1986- 87 11-3 .786 Bob Donewald 1987- 88 10-3 .769 Bob Donewald d Arena "When we were at McCormick Gym, I coached 15 men on the varsity on oue end and Warren Crews had 15 jayvee players on the other end," Collie said. "Gymnastics was in one corner and the wrestling team was in the other corner. It seemed like hog heaven when we went to Horton." In 1970, Horton was the site of some landmark changes for ISU basketball. It marked the move to Division I and the arrival of Will - Robinson as the first black head coach of a major college basketball team. In addition, it was Collins' first year on the varsity, one in which he averaged a school record 28.6 points per game. He would break it a year later with a 32.6 mark. Robinson coached ISU until 1975, compiling a 49-9 record at Horton and a 78-51 mark overall. "It was classified as one of the real pits in the country, but I didn't think it was difficult for opposing teams to play there," said Robinson, now an assistant to the general manager with the Detroit Pistons. "I lost there, and I can recall going a lot of other places that there was no way you (the home team) could lose." Robinson was followed to the ISU I helm by Gene Smithson, who later coached at Wichita State and now is at Central Florida Community College. Smithson is the only man to coach for the Redbirds and against them in Horton. While at ISU, he had a 39-3 record at Horton and a 66-18 mark overall. "It had to be one of the noisiest places in the nation," Smithson said. "It was one of the most enthusiastic crowds around, and being in those small confines ... boy, it was something." Bloomington resident Milt Weisbecker has watched that atmosphere develop, having been associate athletic director in the mid-1960s before taking over as athletic director in 1967. Weisbecker, now a real, estate agent, served as athletic director until 1975 and was the first to have to deal with the increased demand for tickets. Perhaps better than anyone, he can appreciate ISU's move to a larger facility. "I used to dream about it when everybody was on my butt to get tickets," Weisbecker said. "I think it's great they're getting a new facility. "There are a lot of great memories at Horton, but you've got to live in the future, not the past." Indeed you do. But looking back, the days at Horton have been ... well, heavenly. The PantgrDhSTEV6 SMEDLEV Jim Sheehan, a carpenter from Danvers, installed seats in the upper sections of Redbird Arena last week. Illinois State and Chicago State are scheduled to play the first game in the arena Jan. 11. Dreams become reality when arena opens By SUSAN MAROUARDT Pantagraph staff Like many in the community, Illinois State University officials are anxiously awaiting the moment when two teams take to the court for the first basketball game in Redbird Arena. Their reason for excitement stems, in part, from the fact the start of athletic competition marks the end of boardroom construction conversations, which have been plentiful in the more than four years since the arena was first proposed. The arena started as a rosy project with the necessary student approval, acceptance by the Board of Regents and the Illinois Board of Higher Education all won within seven months of the plan's unveiling in April, 1984. The project was estimated then to cost between $10 and $11 million, with construction set to begin in October, 1985. But thorns quickly poked through the blueprints, changing the picture so that the project ended up costing $17.4 million. Groundbreaking occurred on May 8, 1986, and the first targeted completion date of fall, 1986, was pushed back several times be- Wellman feels seating plan accomdates needs, page 1 1 A cause of nasty weather and construction snafus. Those hitches will no doubt be forgotten, or at least pushed into the back of spectator's minds as they view the first tipoff Jan. 11 in what can only be described as an arena designed to intimidate the opponent. But some in the audience may remember the day initial bids for the project came in $4.4 million over the estimates. Others will recall the weeks that went into redesigning the arena to cut costs and the Board of Regents' decision to raise the budget to accommodate a new bid of $15.5 million. Even after the money hurdles were leaped, ISU administrators had headaches as rain kept construction workers off the site for three weeks early in the building process. Soil conditions were another early problem, followed by the need to redesign concrete beams on the concourse level. A manufacturer sent the wrong steel for base plates that support the concrete columns and a mold needed to form concrete beams to support the roof was the wrong size. There were also welding defects found in the steel beams around the outside top rim of the building that required reinforcements be installed. High winds, rain and snow brought more frustration as they interfered with the placement of the 24 Teflon-coated fiberglass fabric panels for the roof. Four of those required a unique fix-it job as insulation pulled loose. The rest of the panels were sent back to the east coast for repair before installation. Still the work continued by the project's architects, CRSS Inc. in Houston; general contractor, C. Iber and Sons of Peoria; and roofers with O.C. Birdair in New York. Everyone involved pushed to complete the building in time for the start of this basketball season. The fact that deadline was not met was disappointing but it does not distract from campus and community pride in the facility that is looking more like a sea of red everyday as the chairback seats are put into place. Workers began installing the seats in the upper level the week of Nov. 7, according to Warren Harden, ISU's vice president of business and finance. Approximately two sections have been completed, with work on the other areas expected to move quickly. Seats for the bottom tier are also arriving and will not be installed until the upper level is completed, Harden said, expressing confidence the work will be completed in time for the Jan. 11 opener against Chicago State. "I am glad that the arena will be completed after all the delays and difficulties that we have had," Harden said, explaining such pitfalls are bound to occur with a facility that has such a unusual geometric shape. "Any unique project will have unforeseen problems," Harden said, pointing out that the fabric roof is the only one like it in the United States. "The building is truly a unique structure and the university will undoubtedly find that it is a great asset," Harden said, expressing confidence Redbird Arena will be a benefit to Bloomington-Normal as well.

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