Gaither still waiting for air-conditioning

The headline story on the university’s Web site totes today’s President’s Convocation will be in the “now air-conditioned” Gaither Gym.

But don’t put those church fans away just yet.Construction was expected to be completed today, but project manager James Noone Jr. said the project has been delayed a month because his company, Construct Two Group, received seven blueprints before the project started.

Renovations to include heating and central air conditioning to the 43-year-old home to the volleyball and basketball teams will not be finished until Oct. 18.

Relieving the FAMU faithful from their fanning frenzy during basketball games and convocations was the idea of several officials.

“The facilities people got together and concluded after witnessing last summer’s convocation, it was strange to all of us that the facility didn’t have air conditioning,” Athletic Director Nelson Townsend said.

“The coaches started to complain about sweat being on the floor.”

According to Noone, the budget for the project is $850,000. However, not a cent of that money will come from the athletic department. Because the gymnasium is a teaching facility, installation was funded entirely by the state.

“We get to use it about 13 to 14 times a year,” Townsend said. “We’re just tenants, although we may be a very popular tenants.”

Work began in April on the 3,365-seat gymnasium named after the late Alonzo “Jake” Gaither. But before it can be completed, Noone and his crew must finish the piping, duct and electrical work and have it inspected.

“People think that once they sign with a contractor they have a magic wand,” Noone said. “A building has to be conditioned before we can get it down to 68, 70 degrees.”

If Gaither Gym is not conditioned before heating and central air conditioning systems are completely installed the court “is liable to crack and warp,” Noone said.

Noone and his crew have only worked on the gymnasium in the evenings since the beginning of the academic year so workers do not interrupt the learning process.

Townsend doesn’t expect students to be surprised anymore to hear there is a home basketball or volleyball game now that the gym should be more comfortable.

“It has to become more than a game. We’re going to have to look at the presentation of our events,” Townsend said. “We have to make it exciting for young people to be there.”

Townsend also suggested using giveaways, media outlets, dorm storms and class competitions as other ways of encouraging students to attend basketball games.

“When you go out to an extra curricular act you want to be comfortable. With the air conditioning more people would be more likely to attend,” said women’s basketball head coach Debra Clark. “It’s big, big plus. We’re really excited. It’s one of those things I’ll be able to sell. We’re probably giving up an edge, but I’d much rather be in cool air than heat anytime.”