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Sunday Telegram (Massachusetts)
WORCESTER - Holy Cross director of athletics Nathan Pine put it best when he called Saturday a "momentous day" for the college and its athletic program.
Hundreds of HC student-athletes, as well as coaches, Crusader sports legends, alumni and donors filled the Hart Center gym, which was appropriately illuminated in purple, for the dedication celebration and ceremonial ribbon cutting of the newly expanded Hart Center at the Luth Athletic Complex.
The $95 million project, which began a little over two years ago and was completed right on schedule, is named in honor of John Luth, a 1974 Holy Cross graduate, and his wife, Dr. Joanne Chouinard-Luth, who helped make it all possible with their gift of $32.5 million, the largest in Holy Cross history.
The 138,000 square feet of renovations includes updates to the Hart Center gym and ice rink, and the addition of a multisport indoor practice facility with a 100-yard
field turf, auxiliary gym, new spaces for sports medicine and strength and conditioning as well as locker rooms, offices and meeting rooms is most impressive.
"The scope is massive," Dr. Chouinard-Luth said, "and there feels like there is so much energy that has to come with it and that there has to be so many people that were responsible for putting it together. I think that's what's amazing."
The Luths received a standing ovation when they were introduced during Saturday's speaking program.
"There is nothing but appreciation for the Luths and their incredible generosity and their vision in buying into what we were trying to do with athletics through this facility," Pine said.
As Pine said, the construction was done in phases. The gym and ice rink opened for the start of the 2016-17 winter seasons. The indoor practice facility was ready in October 2017 and the coaches' suites opened in January.
"This facility is a game-changer for Holy Cross," Pine said, "raising the profile of our athletics program and our entire institution. What we now have at Holy Cross exceeds the athletic facilities of so many of our peer institutions and even some of the top programs in the country in certain areas."
There is a little bit of landscaping to be completed and some "punch-list items, mostly cosmetic," Pine said.
Holy Cross President Rev. Philip Boroughs blessed the facility and those in attendance.
"This facility will enhance the experience of every student-athlete at Holy Cross," he said, "and is the cornerstone upon which all of our athletic successes will be built for many years to come."
Mr. Luth, the founder, CEO and chairman of Seabury Group, is a former member of Holy Cross' board of trustees and played soccer at HC. He graduated the year before the Hart Center opened in 1975. He met his future wife, who is a dentist and nutritionist, at a mixer at Holy Cross in the 1970s. Through their generosity, the Luths are continuing the philanthropic legacy of Mr. Luth's mentor, John Flavan, a 1953 Holy Cross graduate.
"It's a dream come true," Mr. Luth said. "It's just wonderful to see it giving back. Obviously it's a real asset for the college and hopefully an inspiration for others to give and help us continue the mission."
Holy Cross' 700 student-athletes are greatly appreciative of the building and all it has to offer.
"When student-athletes step through the doors of the Luth Athletic Complex, they are immediately invigorated by the transformed space," senior field hockey player Maureen Connolly said. "With more practice space, state-of-the-art equipment and permanent locker rooms, just to name a few of the many impactful additions, Holy Cross student-athletes are given and even bigger platform for success."
The indoor turf facility has been particularly popular with student-athletes this spring. As of last week, because of weather, the baseball team had practiced outside just three times.
"The addition of the indoor facility has been huge for us," junior pitcher Danny Barlok said.
Ron Perry Sr., who played on the 1954 NIT championship team, practiced in the field house and played most home games at Worcester Memorial Auditorium during his great career. As a regular fan at HC basketball games, he has witnessed the transformation of the Hart Center at the Luth Athletic Complex.
"It's unbelievable," Perry said.
Following the ceremonial ribbon cutting, individual dedication ceremonies were held throughout the complex for spaces named after Holy Cross alumni and donors to the project, including the Bill Doran '77 Auditorium, the Rev. Michael C. McFarland Atrium, the Jack Moriarty and Jack Scott Equipment Room, and the William P. Maloney '59 Football Office Suite.
Former HC football coach Mark Duffner was on hand Friday when the head football coach's office was named in his honor.
"The Luths have set the standard for generosity in what they've done to make this project happen," Pine said, "but there are a lot of fellow Crusaders who answered the call to help us make this project a reality, so there is a lot of name recognition throughout the building and that is all part of the celebration."
Also, the Coach George Blaney '61 Gymnasium (practice gym), the athletics director office, in honor of Perry '54, who served 32 years as Holy Cross AD, and the basketball film room, in honor of Togo Palazzi '54, were among the other spaces also dedicated Saturday.
"To me," Palazzi said, "the way I best describe that is the way Father (Francis) Hart described how he felt when the Hart Center was dedicated to him. He said, 'If there is a heaven on Earth, this must be heaven.' Today, I feel there's a heaven on earth for me knowing I will be remembered and honored by this place I love."
Contact Jennifer Toland at email@example.com Follow her on Twitter @JenTandG.
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