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The gym that almost never was

Jeanne Calamar

The Community & Athletic Center under construction in 1991.

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When it opened in 1970, Cosumnes River College didn’t have much to boast about other than being surrounded by orchards, farmland and open fields.

The school was given the “stepchild” pseudonym, because Sacramento City College, American River College  and Sierra College were the older more established schools.

Flash forward to 1991, Sacramento Kings’ owner Greg Lukenbill saw an opportunity with CRC. In affiliation with the Sacramento Sports Association, Lukenbill wanted a new gym built where his Kings could practice.

The idea was that the gym was to be donated to CRC for the Chiefs (now known as the Hawks) to use when the Kings were not practicing, according to a press release from 1991.

“I was hired in ‘89 and was told I would have a new gym within a year,” said former women’s basketball coach and current assistant athletic director Jeanne Calamar. “We would sneak out there, we couldn’t believe they were actually working on it.”

But because of a struggling economy, the project was not finished on schedule. Phase 1 was left behind with nothing more than concrete walls held up by rusty beams.

“There were trees growing in places where the foundation wasn’t laid out yet,” Calamar said.

So CRC was left with a choice: tear down the concrete monster at a cost of $1.5 million or finish it for at a cost of $2.5 million.

While the deliberation began on what to do with the gym, jack rabbits made “stonehenge,” as it was coined, their home.

“They called it a lot of things,” Calamar said. “I called it ugly.”

However, with a bit of luck and sticktoitiveness, the gym was set to be completed, again.

With an allocation of $3.8 million from the Los Rios District, phase I, the first floor, was completed with a price tag of $4.3 million.

The second floor, phase II, was completed with a budget of $1.8 million, said director of administrative services Cory Wathen.

The gym was finally dedicated and opened on Oct. 7, 2000.

Now flash forward to 2012,  The 48,200-square-foot Community & Athletic Center stands prominently on the north end of campus, as a beacon of hard work and an ode to the past.

But the gym isn’t just all glitz and glamour, it is the site of the California State Basketball Championships for the second year in a row.

“Given the colorful history of the building, from its transformation from the drawing board to the pristine facility it is today, you’d be correct in assuming it was a long shot to over host an event of this scope,” said sports information officer Nicholas Podesta.

From stagnant walls to a state-of-the-art facility, the CAC is finally getting the attention it was intended to get.

“I certainly see why CRC was selected to host the State Championships,” Podesta said. “It is widely considered the top facility in the entire state, and given the huge success of last year’s event, you know the CCCAA will be calling once again after this season.”

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The gym that almost never was