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Ashland University to Honor 50 Years of Kates Gymnasium

Zach Read

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It is a Saturday afternoon in the middle of winter, snow is coming down outside.

Fans are pouring into Charles Kates Gymnasium for an action packed day of college basketball. They walk into the King Street entrance to the complex, where they see the history, tradition and memorabilia of over 50 years of Ashland Eagles basketball.

Fans continue their walk through the doors to the entrance of the beautiful gymnasium where they find their seats and anxiously await tip-off.

This tradition has been prevalent since 1967, where fans would file into Kates Gymnasium to cheer on the Ashland University men’s and women’s basketball teams.

2017 marked the 50th year anniversary of Kates Gymnasium and the Eagles basketball teams will be honoring this anniversary on Jan. 27th as they play host to Tiffin University.

The alumni department will be inviting players and coaches from the past 50 years back to Kates Gymnasium for the celebration of rich history of the gym.

“We gathered a list of all men’s and women’s basketball alumni and sent a save the date postcard in the fall announcing the event,” Jeff Alix, Director of Alumni and Parent Relations said. “We have since sent out formal invitations and followed up with multiple email reminders.”

A reception will be held on the morning of the 27th to gather the alumni of both men’s and women’s basketball to share in stories and fellowship, followed by the games in which the anniversary will be recognized.

During the reception, both head coaches John Ellenwood and Robyn Fralick will have an opportunity to speak to the alumni and show their appreciation for the program.

For John Ellenwood, who is in his ninth season at the helm of the Ashland University men’s basketball program, is excited to be involved in such a traditionally rich program.

“It is exciting to be part of such a tradition rich program,” Ellenwood said. “Every season, I hear more and more stories about the past coaches and players and it is neat to add to the tradition with current players.”

The men’s program, which began in 1920, has seen ten NCAA tournament appearances with the latest coming in 2016. The height of the men’s program was from 1968 to 1978, when seven of those ten appearances occurred including two Final Four appearances.

The men’s team is currently on a nine game winning streak as they hold a 14-3 record on the 2017-2018 season. For Ellenwood, it is special for him to be the head coach of a program that has had so many strong coaches that have helped build the program.

The women’s program, which dates back to 1967, the year Kates Gymnasium was built, has seen seven NCAA appearances. Two of those appearances were national championships in 2013 and 2017, and runner-ups in 2012.

Currently, the women’s team is at the height of the program with a record of 17-0 on the year and holds the longest Division II women’s basketball streak for consecutive wins with 54.

Although Kates Gymnasium dates back to 1967, it saw heavy renovations in 2013 that completely changed the complexion of the gym. Thanks to the support of Sherrill Hudson, a whole gutting of the gym was made possible, which included a new floor, new bleachers, air conditioning and many other qualities that made the gymnasium prestige.

After these changes, Kates Gymnasium became one of the premiere places to play in the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (GLIAC).

“Kates Gym was in desperate need of a “face lift”…the renovations helped with easier game/practice set up, it was a better sell to recruits than the old metal bleachers and wooden backboards on the side baskets,” Ellenwood said.

This 50th year reunion will give an opportunity for former players to see the gymnasium and how lively it has become with the atmosphere that the teams, and fans, bring to the gymnasium.

Ellenwood said that this reunion will give an opportunity for his current players to understand that they are a part of something bigger than themselves.

The expected attendance for this reunion is about 100 people from both past mens and womens teams and there will be a few players who played over 50 years ago in attendance as well.

“Bringing alumni back to campus around programs that they invested so much time and energy in while they were here allows them to reflect and reminisce on all the games, practices and time they spent together,” Alix said. “There is a special bond created between teammates because of so many shared experiences. This is a great opportunity for them to share all the stories and memories.”

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