(TMT Staff Photos By Christopher R. Vinn)
(TMT Staff Photos By Christopher R. Vinn)
Front Page - Sun, Jan. 16, 2011
Phase II of the Wagstaff Gym restoration included a new entrance at Tyler Junior College.
Staff Writer
Tyler Morning Telegraph

The plumbing leaked and sometimes flooded; the visitor locker rooms were deficient and the female athletes were inconvenienced.

Wagstaff Gymnasium on the Tyler Junior College campus was also lacking a most basic element - its name on the front of the building.

"I can't tell you how many times I was in that parking lot (adjacent to Wagstaff), walking away from the gym and somebody walks up … ‘Can you tell me where Wagstaff Gym is? Gosh, it's right, literally 50 feet behind me, but you don't know,'" said TJC athletic director Dr. Tim Drain.
Today, there is no reason to ask that question, or any others, concerning shortcomings of Wagstaff Gymnasium. It has a shapely new facade, bearing the name of the 47-year-old facility, at the southeast corner - a logical spot considering where the majority of fans park.

"This change alone has completely made the building for me," said Drain, who arrived at TJC in August 1999 and became athletic director in September 2002.

Until now, Drain said the only place it said "Wagstaff Gymnasium" was on the opposite side of the building - fronting what became a closed road (Mahon Avenue) in 1986.

While the original location of the sign is outdated, nothing needed updating more than the back half of the gym. Thus, TJC began the Phase II renovation of Wagstaff Gymnasium last March.

The project was completed Nov. 1, benefiting not only TJC's athletic administrators, coaches, players and athletic trainers but also visiting teams and the public at large.

Phase I - from November 2004 - dealt with the basketball gym itself, including a new floor, seating, lighting and sound system.

Now it's basically all new - the front, middle and back.

"It makes you appreciate what was done in here - Phase I - much better," Drain said of the current improvements. "Phase I was so good, but you thought it was so good because (the back) was so bad.

"Now, when the back and the front look equal, the whole place looks a lot better. It looks more open, more inviting. It looks clean."

A Look Back
Wagstaff Gymnasium - named for the late Floyd Wagstaff, a TJC coaching legend, was built in 1964 when the only sports the college had were football and men's basketball. TJC added women's basketball for the 1975-76 season and women's volleyball in 1996.

Over time, a "fatal flaw" was exposed in the original design. The Phase II renovation was first and foremost about gender equity, Drain said.

"Women's volleyball was (affected) more than any other," he said. "At least women's basketball had a shower inside a door that wasn't across a hallway. (Volleyball) was our main visitors' locker room, the largest area to put kids. Volleyball and visiting teams, both guys and girls, were (affected)." A total redesign of the back of the building started with a separate men's and women's wing, anchored by a centralized concession area and training room.

Every locker room - four visitors, three varsity and two officials - is self-contained. There are also coaches' offices for men's and women's basketball, baseball, golf, volleyball and softball (softball is not yet offered by the college).

Besides playing host to TJC basketball and volleyball, Wagstaff Gymnasium is used by East Texas high schools for graduations and basketball games.

Drain said the athletic training room, which can accommodate up to 16 student-trainers, was the focal point of the back renovation.

"Of any place that we've got, this is the highest traffic area," he said. "We wanted a place that was big enough to house everybody and very functional."

Kelly Wilson, a sophomore student-trainer from Elkhart, is enjoying her new work place.

"The offices of our head trainer Eddy McGuire and (assistant Travis Gray) are now actually in the training room, which is nice because before they were around the corner," Wilson said.

The training staff can be more efficient in treating the nearly 350 TJC athletes.

"We can fit more athletes in there so we can do more rehabs at a time," Wilson said.

Other special features of the back include a multipurpose room, which has four flat-screen TVs; a players' lounge; a student-athlete academic center; and a book room.

Drain said the facility is now a one-stop shop for TJC athletes, and the females can now feel secure.

"An athlete can literally come in here and not leave," Drain said. "They can get advised, they can come get training, they can get a workout in, they can come read a book and they can get work done on a computer …"

Sarah Van Cleef, TJC's interim vice president for business affairs, said $3.8 million was spent on "mandatory rehab and renovation" to the facility to bring it into compliance with Title IX.

Maintenance tax notes, which were approved in September 2009, were used for the Phase II renovation, Drain said. Any additions, including Wagstaff Museum and the multipurpose room, were paid for by the college.

Wagstaff Museum
While the athletes enjoy the amenities, fans of all ages are encouraged to visit the new Wagstaff Museum in the front of the building.

Floyd Solomon Wagstaff was born in 1911 and died in February 2000. He would have turned 100 years old on Jan. 8.

In creating a legend as wide as Texas, Wagstaff's basketball teams at TJC won 743 games and advanced to the national tournament 11 times. Wagstaff, who joined the college in 1946, won national titles in 1949 and 1951 and finished second twice.

Wagstaff is a member of five athletic halls of fame, and his legacy lives through the Wagstaff Holiday Classic high school basketball tournament, which began in the mid-'60s by coach Wagstaff.

He was also TJC's first football coach and the school's first athletic director. His football teams won 130 games, lost 36, and twice played in the Junior Rose Bowl in Pasadena, Calif. Wagstaff retired in 1984 but remained a fixture at basketball games, watching from his perch above the court. Fittingly, he was the first inductee into the TJC Sports Circle of Honor in 1995.

Drain is hopeful of keeping the museum open during business hours and games.

"We want people to come in here and learn a little bit about us because I promise you we're not here, and this renovation doesn't take place, if Wag is not here," Drain said.

Peggy Smith, one of Wagstaff's three daughters and a member of the TJC board of trustees, was put in charge of organizing the museum.

The front room offers a history lesson before entering the actual museum. Photos of the Circle of Honor members adorn one wall. On the other are photos of Wagstaff's two national championship teams with the trophies on display.

In the back, there is a wall dotted with Wagstaff's Circle of Honor jacket, the various halls of fame in which he is a member, and letters to Wagstaff from presidents. There are two trophy cases celebrating championships from the Wagstaff era and a spotlight table that could one day hold a bust of coach Wag.

The museum opened in time for the Wagstaff basketball tournament, which ran Dec. 28 to 30 and featured 16 teams.

"When people come to Wag, we want them to enjoy their experience so much that they might take a look at the rest of the campus," Drain said. "If the front porch is nice, then you're going to want to see the house.

"We have so many high school events in here; we have so many recruiting opportunities in this place. I told Peggy Smith that it's now befitting the name. Wagstaff Gym is Wagstaff Gym, again."