WINCHESTER, Va. – It's time to say goodbye.
Wednesday evening, the Shenandoah University men's basketball team hosts Bridgewater College in the final intercollegiate contest to be held in Shingleton Gymnasium.
Following that 7 p.m. ODAC tilt against the Eagles, the university will begin hosting its men's and women's basketball games, its volleyball matches and eventually indoor track & field events in the 77,000-square-foot James R. Wilkins, Jr. Athletics & Events Center.
In addition, the Wilkins Center, located immediately south of Sprint Field at Shentel Stadium, will serve as an events center for the university and the Winchester/Frederick County community. Convocation and commencement are both planned for the building.
The inaugural athletic events in Wilkins are set for Wednesday, January 31 as the men's and women's hoops teams host a doubleheader beginning at 5 p.m.
However, before the gleaming new showpiece takes center stage, Shingleton, built in 1968, hosts one final time.
Originally constructed on the edge of campus with a tartan (rubber) surface and serving just the volleyball and men's basketball programs, Shingleton has seen the campus grow up and all around it as the site became the home base for a 21-team, 500-student-athlete intercollegiate athletic department.
Every student-athlete has used Shingleton during his or her time at SU, whether it was for practice, an activities class or just as a fan of the men's basketball, women's basketball and volleyball teams.
With the maximum capacity of just 680 fans, it never took much for Shingleton to seem packed.
"The crowd, the administrators on the sideline and the baseball, lacrosse and soccer players (crowded) on the baseline is what I am going to remember," Phil Dixon '96 said.
"The live radio broadcasts… everything about it (the atmosphere) was electric."
And Dixon isn't alone in holding Shingleton close to his heart.
Deanna Estes '98 led her women's basketball team to a Dixie (now USA South) Conference championship in 1996 before a home crowd, and that is the first thing that comes to mind when thinking about the facility.
"We were the last seed and we won three games in three days!" Estes said. "People were everywhere. I will never forget those games and playing the 'Last of the Mohicans' soundtrack as warm-up music that weekend."
Longtime radio color commentator Richard Helm has a memory that stretches almost all of the way to the opening night of the building. "It was 1972 or '73," Helm said. "There was a foul on a shot that went through the hoop but the referee missed that second part. The Shenandoah coach stopped the game and got the officials to do a video review. The call was changed!
"I was there and I remember Soupie Hillyard (a longtime basketball official) talking about it to my 6th grade PE class later as an historic event. It might have been the first time video was ever used to change a call."
Helm's broadcast partner, play-by-play man Mike O'Dell, began calling games in Shingleton 30 years ago. As to be expected, his memories run deep.
"So many great games over the years that I don't think I could pick one above the rest," O'Dell said. "What stands out to me though was the individual performances - Al White '96 had the greatest dunk I ever saw. He took off from the foul line and just exploded to the hoop.
"And Al was just one of the great players that played in Shingleton. There are too many to mention, but they all seemed to come alive when playing at home.
"On the flip side, I remember some of the sad times as well. Dave's (former AD Dave Dutton) memorial service back in 2001 and seeing an official have a heart attack and pass away in front of a capacity crowd are two memories that unfortunately come to mind when I think back on my time in Shingleton. The building truly has seen it all."
Dutton and his wife, Kathy, will be honored on February 10 when the university dedicates the Wilkins Center playing court to the couple following the men's game versus Lynchburg.
The basketball and volleyball teams hosted numerous conference tournaments during Shingleton's near 50-year history with the women's basketball team hosting what turned out to be the final two tournament games - ODAC Tournament wins against Hollins in 2013 and Randolph College in 2014.
That trip to Salem was the first of three for the women in five seasons of league play.
The on-court memories extend to the volleyball team as well.
"My favorite memory is just being able to play there with my friends and being able to use the low ceiling as an advantage during volleyball games - the other teams weren't prepared for that!" Haley (Smith) Nelson '14 said. "However, I think my funniest memory was the multiple times the lights went out in the middle of games and when burning popcorn caused the fire alarm to go off during a match!"
The Wilkins Center, with a 37-foot ceiling, is 40 percent higher than the 22-foot height inside Shingleton.
Despite those challenges, Nelson's fellow co-captain, Katy Griffith '14, '16 M.AT, remarked, "Even though there is a nicer gym coming that is going to be a better opportunity for future Hornets, Shingleton will always be HOME to me."
Shingleton will remain as an alternate practice facility for intercollegiate athletics as well as a space used by Student Life. The intercollegiate athletics offices will remain in the building.