Point Park athletics to get a home court with new Convocation Center

Written By Doug Andiorio

Point Park Athletic Director Daniel Swalga has been at Point Park for the last five years and for many athletic events, he has had to travel to places such as CCAC (Community College of Allegheny County) South and Green Tree Sportsplex.  He thought when he first arrived here that eventually the school would have a home place to play and now the pieces are falling into place.”It will be revolutionary for campus,” said Swalga.  “It will give students a place to rally behind their school.”Point Park received a grant of $4 million from the Richard King Mellon Foundation this past May, the largest gift to the university in its history, which will be going towards the new student convocation center.  The center will not only be the home of the Point Park Pioneers men’s and women’s basketball and volleyball teams but will also become a place for students.”This is going to be very beneficial to athletics and the students,” said Kevin Taylor, head of communications for the Point Park Athletic Department.  “This is going to make Point Park unique to have a place like this downtown.”The new student convocation center is one of biggest pieces to the school’s Academic Village development.  The whole project is estimated to cost about $32 million and construction is projected to start by the end of 2012.  The center will be constructed next to student recreation center which was the former downtown YMCA and was opened this past fall. Along with receiving the grant to help the project move forward Point Park also purchased the Downtown paramedic station at 344 Boulevard of the Allies for $275,000.  The building is approximately 11,580 square feet and will become part of the new student convocation center, however parts of it will continue to be rented by the city for a paramedic station and police bicycle station.”No words can describe this and it can’t come soon enough,” said Mike Bruno, head coach of the Point Park volleyball team. “The main thing is to have the opportunity for the kids to go to practice right from class and most important for them is be able to show their talents to the other students.”The future student convocation center will have a 1,000 seat capacity, but will also have concession stands, locker rooms and reception for the media for men’s and women’s basketball and volleyball.  This will give on-campus students the opportunity to walk to sporting events, something that the school has never been able to offer.”For the players it will be great to have a more supportive student body,” said Swalga.”This will help identify Point Park students and the Pioneer crowd because you see what places like Pitt (University of Pittsburgh) has been able to do with the Oakland Zoo theme for their crowd to get them involved,” Taylor said.Over the years, the men’s and women’s basketball teams have had to play their home games at CCAC South in West Mifflin which is approximately a 25 minute drive from Downtown.  Volleyball has been playing at Green Tree Sportsplex in Green Tree which is closer than CCAC South. “CCAC South has been good for us since we have been playing there but the location is bad and though Green Tree is closer, it would just be great for students and the athletes to have a place in close proximity to campus,” Taylor said. For Point Park to have a place on campus for these teams to practice will only help the student athletes so they will not have to travel to practice and home games.  “A major part of this new convocation center will give the kids the chance to just walk from class to practice instead of taking a van to and from practice,” Bruno said.Rachel Roddy, senior elementary education major and volleyball player said, “It is going to be so much easier on future athletes to get to practice and games, and not have to worry about traffic.”With the rumors of Point Park athletics over the years of trying to get into the NCAA (National Collegiate Association of Athletics) and leaving the NAIA (National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics), having a state of the art building for athletics will only help their chances but these are not the goals of the athletic department just yet.”We have not applied for the NCAA yet but it will good to be able to show the convocation center but it is not the biggest part,” Said Swalga.  “Our goal is to get student athletics a bigger part of campus and that every student athlete can be a better person after leaving Point Park.”Another goal for the athletic department is to have a great alumnus for the future and have them be part of Point Park for their lifetime.  “You know they’re going to say ‘Wow we wish we had this’ but it will give them a chance to connect back with not just athletics but the school and the campus as well,” said Bruno.”It will be awesome for Point Park to get more school spirit and be part of that type of atmosphere because a crowd can make or break a game,” Roddy said.Mainly the center will be the host for many events such as the basketball and volleyball games but it is also available for all students.  It will become part of the recreation center and offer a bigger fitness center including a running track along with meeting rooms, and activity/academic space. “It will be great not only for the athletes but, for the whole student body,” Swalga said.