RIO GRANDE, Ohio — The University of Rio Grande will celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Lyne Center when the RedStorm entertains Midway University in a River States Conference basketball doubleheader on Sat., Jan. 25th.
Members of the 1968-69 men’s basketball team – the first to call the building their home – will be introduced in between games of the twinbill, which gets underway with the women’s contest at 1 p.m.
The ceremony itself, which will also include family members of the building’s namesake – former Rio Grande football coach, athletic director and president Paul R. Lyne – will begin at approximately 3 p.m., just prior to the start of the men’s game.
The Lyne Center opened on Saturday, Jan. 31, 1970 and was christened with a victory by the then-Redmen over Campbellsville (Ky.) University.
The building, which housed two full-sized basketball courts, an Olympic-size swimming pool, handball courts, a weight-lifting room, locker rooms, class rooms and faculty offices, was built for $600,000.
“The tradition of sports at the University of Rio Grande has had such a huge impact on so many. The many days and nights of celebrations at the Paul R. Lyne Center resonate in the memories of hundreds of athletes throughout the country,” said Jeff Lanham, Rio Grande’s current athletic director. “When the facility was erected in 1970, it was considered state-of-the-art and it remains a pillar for events throughout all of our community.”
Lyne was a coach and physical education instructor at Rio Grande College from 1923-28, before being named an assistant professor of physical education and director of athletics in 1929.
Lyne left Rio Grande in 1930 for a similar position at Defiance College, but returned to Rio two years later as the school’s director of physical education and a professor of history.
After later becoming the principal at Cambridge High School in Cambridge, Ohio, Lyne returned to Rio Grande once again in 1954 to serve as the school’s 10th president.
During Lyne’s nine-year tenure, the school’s student body more than tripled and the size of the campus nearly doubled.
Lyne’s successor as president, Dr. Alphus R. Christensen, initiated the movement to build a facility where courses in physical education could be taught, where intercollegiate athletic events could be played and where students could participate in intramural events.
Groundbreaking ceremonies took place on May 12, 1968 and just under two years later, the Lyne Center became a reality.
For those members of the men’s basketball team, its opening was a welcome sight.
“There was a tremendous sense of pride in finally having a home and not having to ride a bus just to practice,” said Charlie Baker, then the starting point guard for the Redmen. “You could really see the happiness among my teammates, the community, our coaches, our fans and our student body.”
Before the opening of the Lyne Center, Redmen basketball practiced and played its home contests at nearby Gallia Academy High School – something Baker and his teammates weren’t particularly proud of.
“Having a home made us feel whole as college players at the next level. We didn’t have to tell people we played our college games in a high school gym,” Baker said. “I can still see Coachman (Rio Grande head coach Art Lanham) – the excitement and the pleasure of having an arena that we could call home was written all over his face.”
Randy Payton is the Sports Information Director at the University of Rio Grande.