The Independent Student Newspaper of St. John's University

The Torch

The Independent Student Newspaper of St. John's University

The Torch

The Independent Student Newspaper of St. John's University

The Torch

Field House of Dreams

Each year brings new additions to the men’s and women’s basketball teams. However, this year, along with the recruits, St. John’s also welcomed the addition of the Taffner Field House to the basketball program.

“The Taffner practice facility is a wonderful facility for our program and for the men’s program as well,” said women’s basketball coach Kim Barnes Arico.

The 43,000 square foot Field House, which opened in September, cost approximately $16 million to construct. The facility is named for Donald and Eleanor Taffner, the primary donors for the construction of the building.

It houses four full-sized basketball courts, two of which are available to campus recreation for student use while the other two are devoted solely to the men’s and woman’s teams.

Along with the requisite courts, the facility also houses the bulk of the basketball program. Located within the Field House are a training room equipped with custom-made weight training machinery specifically for the athletes, professional locker rooms for both the men’s and women’s teams, and office space for the coaches and other administrative personnel. There is also a small locker room for students who use the front courts.

The Taffner Field House, however, is more than just a practice facility.

The long-awaited addition to the University has become much more than just an athletic complex. To many people, including Barnes Arico, the building of the field house was a serendipitous construction.

“Two years ago, [Donald Taffner, for whom the facility is named] sent me in the mail a plaque that said, ‘Anticipate miracles’ and I have it actually hanging in my office,” Barnes Arico said. “But that was before this was even mentioned, the new facility. Every time I think about this facility, I look at that plaque. Nobody thought our program, and nobody thought this facility, would be here in such a short period of time and it is.”

Members of the University community, and specifically the athletics department, hope that the Taffner facility will work its miracles and revitalize the basketball program, which has suffered in the past. The men’s program, specifically, suffered, in the past two years, a highly publicized sex scandal and a self-imposed ban from postseason play for one year.

However, St. John’s has worked hard in recent years to improve the state of the University as a whole, including the basketball program.

“The institution has risen, so will the athletic programs, including the women’s and the men’s basketball teams,” said University President, the Rev. Donald J. Harrington, C.M.

It is the hope of the University that the addition of the Taffner Field House will exponentially enhance the basketball program.

Practice facilities in Carnesecca Arena were out of date and did not allow the teams to be able to recruit as competitively as they need to in the expanded Big East conference, which added Louisville (a Final Four participant last year), Cincinnati, South Florida, DePaul and Marquette.

Not only will the new facilities help the teams be more competitive on the court, but they will also make the University more competitive.

“For a long time at St. John’s, the guys had nowhere to play,” said men’s basketball coach Norm Roberts. “When other schools are working out, being in the gym, at St. John’s the guys couldn’t because they were either doing the floor [of the gym] and basketball players need to be working.”

“Taffner’s a terrific building,” Roberts continued. “I think it shows that St. John’s is taking a huge step to improve facilities on campus.”

Barnes Arico agreed, stating that the addition of the facility will help the women’s team achieve a greater level of success.

“It’s just tremendous and I think for us to be successful in this conference we needed to have facilities that the rest of the Big East have,” she said. “I think this facility does that.”

Along with the coaches, the players are also excited about the addition of the new practice facility.

The Taffner Field House allows them the practice time needed to compete against other schools at their level.

“As far as the team, we wanted to be able to come in and shoot and work on our game,” senior guard Tara Walker said. “In Carnesecca [Arena] we couldn’t go in because of other teams in there practicing. We have [the Taffner Field House] open to us 24 hours. We can come in any time we want to work on our game. It helps us.”

Senior guard and walk-on Nygel Roach agreed, saying the Field House was more than welcome by the teams.

“It’s a great addition to our program and we’re very thankful for it,” Roach said. “It’s definitely allowed us to practice a lot. It gives us the flexibility that we need with practice times. In Carnesecca [Arena] sometimes there would be conflicts with other teams. [The Field House] definitely gives us what we need.”

Both Barnes Arico and Roberts have made it clear, though, that the teams have to earn the right to use the facilities housed in the Taffner building.

“There are a lot of guys, a lot of sweat and tears and hard work that went on in Carnesecca Arena,” Roberts said. “So I let my guys know that they haven’t done anything to deserve this. There are a lot of guys that have done a lot of work here who deserve what our guys have right now. We have to respect what we have and do the best we can.”

“I think the young ladies have to prove they deserve [the use of the new facility],” Barnes Arico added. “They have to take care of it and have to represent the University in a first class manner.”

In addition to offering the current players a high-quality practice facility, the Taffner building also looks to draw in new recruits.

“I think it helps us in many ways, as far as recruiting, as far as bringing recruits here,” Walker said. “Of course it’s going to attract people. Everyone loves to see new things and everyone wants to be a part of that.”

The Taffner Field House, and all that it offers, is expected to help the teams achieve great things.

“The facility ranks with the best in the conference and is a great place to call our own,” Roberts said. “The field house will be instrumental in helping our program take its next steps toward success.”

The addition of the Field House, however, does more than just bring success. It brings a sense of pride to the teams.

“I think it’s wonderful,” Barnes Arico said. “It’s a wonderful opportunity for [the teams]. They feel like they really have their own home, women’s and men’s basketball. Everyday they can walk down the hallway. They have an opportunity to get inside this gym anytime they want, which is wonderful.

“They appreciate it; they think it’s an honor to just have this opportunity.”

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