9 takeaways about a new campus gem

September 25, 2020


With the opening of the Queally Athletics Center and renovated Millhiser Gymnasium this fall, UR will see the biggest addition to its athletics facilities since Robins Stadium in 2010. Here’s what you need to know.
By Matthew Dewald

1.) It doubles down on the commitment to athletes’ academic success.
Spider student-athletes just posted their best academic year on record. The new facility provides a boost for building on that success.

“We understand the value of sport, but we also understand the bigger picture,” said Lauren Wicklund, associate athletic director for leadership development.

In the new Student-Athlete Development Center on the first floor of renovated Millhiser Gymnasium, all student-athletes will have one-stop access to academic support, leadership development, career planning, and more.

“Millhiser will become a second home for them,” said Bruce Matthews, associate athletic director for academic support. “It’s here where they will meet their advisers, laugh with friends, study for tests, learn leadership skills, and explore future careers.”

2.) It is a recruiting jewel for the basketball programs.
The new facilities will fundamentally change the recruiting experience for the basketball programs. When potential recruits enter the QAC through Spider Hall, they will be greeted by a large video board and have an expansive view of the new practice courts. From there, they’ll turn right and enter a reception room in renovated Millhiser that showcases the building’s distinctive architecture and stained-glass windows.

The message is clear: Richmond is a place with stellar facilities, strong tradition, and institutional commitment.

“I think this will be something that really stands out to recruits,” said Chris Mooney, head men’s basketball coach.

It’s already served that purpose for one coach, Aaron Roussell, who said he came to Richmond in 2019 in part because of the new facility.

“I think it shows the commitment and resources that the university is putting into basketball,” said Roussell, women’s basketball head coach. “That goes a long way when you’re trying to get a high-level student athlete.”

The message is clear: Richmond is a place with stellar facilities, strong tradition, and institutional commitment.

3.) Basketball practice space is expanded dramatically.
The QAC’s heart is a large practice gym with one full court, two smaller courts, multiple baskets, and adjacent meeting and video rooms. The expansive space allows for more things to happen at once than was possible when both teams shared a single court in the Robins Center. Something that was impossible before — the men’s and women’s teams practicing simultaneously — will now be routine. No more jockeying between them for the golden hours of 2 to 4 p.m.

4.) It lets basketball players stay courtside, even when they have to step off court.
Tweak an ankle? Strain a knee? No need to travel far for exercise bikes, treadmills, hydrotherapy, and other strength, training, and rehab support. It’s all just off the practice courts, so players can tend to minor needs and routine conditioning while staying engaged with practice and their teammates.

5.) Fans will love Spider Hall.
Athletics has dubbed the main entranceway Spider Hall, and it is a stunner. On one side, glass exterior walls look out to the football stadium, and on the other, an overlook opens up to the practice courts from a story above. A large video board will offer views of all kinds.

Athletics envisions Spider Hall as a multipurpose space for everything from team events and pregame receptions for fans to university events, such as during Reunion Weekend.

6.) It breathes new life into Millhiser Memorial Gymnasium.
Millhiser, the Spiders’ home court from 1922 to 1946, is back at the heart of the basketball programs.

The renovation created two tiers of offices, meeting rooms, and other spaces ringed around a shared open center. The first floor houses the academic support and leadership areas. Men’s and women’s basketball coaches’ offices are on the second floor.

Preservation is a key feature of the Millhiser renovation. The original brick walls, hardwood floor, and vaulted rafters are restored. Additionally, construction staff opened a number of windows that were bricked in over the years, adding natural light throughout the space.

7.) It gives busy student-athletes the gift of time.
Student-athletes have some of the tightest schedules on campus, so it’s no surprise that the term “one-stop” comes up again and again when athletics staff talk about the benefits of the new facility. The major support systems for student-athletes are all right there.

8.) It embodies Richmond’s commitment to women’s athletics.
Spaces for the men’s and women’s programs are mirror images of each other — everything from coaches’ offices to locker rooms.

“Gender equity considerations are a natural and ingrained part of our daily conversations and throughout our operations, from construction and renovation of facilities to policy development and implementation,” said LaRee Sugg, deputy director of athletics and chief of diversity, equity, and inclusion.

9.) It puts student-athletes next door to the well-being center.
The QAC is connected to another signature facility opening this fall, the Well-Being Center. (Read more about it here.)

Wicklund, who heads up leadership development, predicts the new center will be very popular among student-athletes.

“I’m sure they’re going to be hitting up that organic café,” she said. “I’m really excited for what this can do for them as human beings and watching that translate to their success academically and athletically.”