By Dallas Bordon
Emmanuel College held a ribbon cutting ceremony Oct. 6 to officially open its new 78,000-square-foot 10 million dollar athletic facility.
The new arena at the college in Franklin Springs, seats 1,200 people and nearly all seats were filled for the dedication. Those on hand were alumni, faculty, students, former athletes, local residents, and current players.
The new sports arena will include an aquatic center with a 25-meter competition pool, basketball arena-seating 1,200, volleyball arena-seating 300, 4,000-square-foot wellness center, 1,600-square-foot sports rehabilitation center, bowling alley, Papa John’s pizza area, coach’s offices, VIP suite, team film room, indoor track and a broadcast media suite.
A ribbon cutting ceremony opened the day’s events with President Mike Stewart’s opening remarks. The ribbon was cut by President Stewart, several former and current athletes, coaches and dignitaries. The dedication continued into the arena for a ceremony with several speakers on hand, including legendary women’s basketball coach Mike Bona.
Bona serves as the athletic director as well as the women’s basketball coach. Bona is a long-standing faculty member serving just over 37 years at the college. Bona talked about the old (former) gym and the attempts the college made to improve the old facility over the years.
“We’ve tried several ways to change the old gym over the years,” said Bona. “It’s sometimes tough to recruit players that come from high schools where their gyms were much nicer than our old gym here. Now that’s different with this new arena.”
Bona’s Lady Lion basketball team held their first practice in the new arena on Friday.
“Following practice I sat down in a seat in the corner of the arena thinking to myself that I will have to take the ladies to eat and then lodging for the night. I then realized that we were not on a road trip and this is actually our new home. It’s just hard to believe,” said Bona.
Bona is one of the conference’s winning coaches with over 590 wins. The new coach’s conference room upstairs in the arena is named after coach Bona for his years of dedication to Emmanuel.
Members of the first ever men’s basketball team at Emmanuel (1958-59 and 1959-60) took the stage and were inducted as the first members Emmanuel College’s Hall Of Fame during the ceremony.
Following the dedication ceremony, tours were given throughout the new facility. The Lady Lions volleyball team then took the court for the first-ever sporting event in the arena in a match versus Coastal Georgia.
The new facility will be accompanied in future plans by a new complex next door that will include baseball and softball fields, eight tennis courts, a soccer field, Lacrosse field, and a sports field house with locker rooms.
“This is truly a miracle from God,” said Emmanuel President Mike Stewart. “We have dreamed of this for many years and many prayers have been answered.”
For more information on Emmanuel College you can visit their website at www.goeclions.com.