“No one who attended the first graduation at our new Breckon Center will ever forget it,” said Rita Weighill, associate vice president of university advancement at Park University.
The Breckon Center is the university’s newest addition: an ultra-modern Sports Event Center, consisting of twin Monolithic Dome gymnasiums flanking an office complex, designed by Architect Rick Crandall and completed in 2000.
“Our December commencement was the first time we ever used the domes for a graduation,” a truly unforgettable one,“ Weighill said. "The domes were new so that in itself was exciting, but then one of the grandparents of our graduates had a heart attack. Fortunately, our security people were able to administer CPR and get his heart going again. That gentleman visited us a few weeks later, in much better condition and very grateful. So, we have some very good memories associated with our Breckon Center.”
Sports — a big thing at Park
Its men’s and women’s teams compete in the NAIA (National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics) in basketball, volleyball, soccer and softball.
The teams use the dome with two courts as a Practice Gym. Its twin, the Performance Gym with its 1,000 spectator seats, hosts competitions and special events.
Asked how he likes the domes, Athletic Director Claude English said, “Well, I’ll be honest with you. There’s not much at all that I dislike. The actual facility is wonderful. You always look back and think about storage and things of that nature, but the actual facility, the office space, the locker rooms, the gyms, they’re all very good.
"Normally, when you get into a dome situation the acoustics are pretty bad,” English continued. “But in our Performance Gym they’re really good. We put in special acoustical material and we will do that in the Practice Gym too.”
Coaches love the Practice Gym
According to English, he and the coaches appreciate the Practice Gym as much or even more than the Performance Gym.
He said, “We now have a facility to practice in. No more cancellations because of bad weather. It’s wonderful because we have terrible winters. It’s been a dream come true. I think we’re all very proud of and excited about the facility. All the coaches are really impressed.”
What visitors think
“People look at the two domes and they’re a curiosity that piques their interest,” English said. “But when they get inside, they get really impressed. Almost all the visiting coaches have asked for more information on the domes. The feedback has been very positive.”
The daily routine
As for the day-to-day operation and maintenance of the facility, Rusty Nachbar, plant operations and maintenance manager, said, “It’s great. All is going well. We had to go through an adjustment period. At first we got the inside of the domes too cold, then too warm. Now it’s set just right and it’s easy to maintain. The domes are an oddity in this area, but a welcome addition. They give Park a good home court advantage.”
A formal dedication
In February 2001, Park officially dedicated its Breckon Center. English said, “We tried to make sure that all our sports teams were in town for this dedication. So we actually began playing in the domes before the dedication, just couldn’t wait.”
The dedication, held in the Performance Gym, was attended by the mayor of Parkville, Park University’s board members, all of its teams, faculty and staff. Along with companionship, good wishes and good food, attendees looked at photos and memorabilia commemorating Park’s 126-year history. Included in all that reminiscing were fond, happy discussions of that first, unforgettable graduation at their Breckon Center.