founders turns 50
Founders Hall set to turn 50 years old on February 5By Tim Stried, SID
January 28, 2002
|Did you know...
Bluffton defeated Ashland 61-59 in overtime on Feb. 5, 1952 in the first game ever played in Founders Hall.
Bluffton has won 278 of the 531 games they've played in Founders Hall heading into the 2001-02 season for a winning percentage of 52.4%.
February 5, 1952 was anything but a normal day on the campus of Bluffton College.
That night, a crowd of 1,800 spectators, nearly three times of the enrollment of the school at the time, jammed into Bluffton's newest building on campus for the grand opening of Founders Hall.
As the men's glee club sang and the pep band played, Bluffton Mayor Wilbur A. Howe tossed a basketball through a crepe paper hoop over one of the baskets and the history of Founders Hall had begun. That night the Beavers upset Ashland University in overtime 61-59 for the first of many wins for BC in what remains the center of campus athletic and recreational activity.
Built at a cost of $300,000, Founders Hall took nearly three years to build as funds trickled to replace the college's former athletic building, referred to as "the Barn," which was the home to BC basketball between 1916 and the early 1940s. For nearly a decade the Beavers played their home games in the Bluffton High School gymnasium after the Barn, which was built by BC students who raised $2000 for materials, was declared unplayable due to heaved up sections of the floor.
Construction on Founders Hall began in May of 1949 and was not completed until June of 1952, although the gymnasium portion was finished enough to begin hosting games in late January. It was heralded as the finest of its kind within a 65-mile radius and has hosted a variety of events in its history, including graduation ceremonies, special speakers, musicals, conferences, family reunions and wrestling matches (college and professional). High School basketball tournament were held there for over 20 years.
|Local newspaper picture.|
The open house program from that day in 1952 shares a glimpse at the excitement of the campus. "We know you will hardly believe that you are in a gymnasium on the campus of Bluffton College, but it is a fact. We hope you are pleased and that you enjoy this evening and many more pleasant evenings here on campus," the program states.
Construction specifications share interesting facts about Founders Hall. Steel was the largest expense of the building, costing $31,304, and the largest steel girder weighed 18 tons. Once again, students contributed to the construction efforts of their new gym, both in manual labor and through financial gifts, this time totaling $7,000.
|Local newspaper article from first game.|
Longtime BC sports information director Ron Geiser shared some of the most memorable games to have been played in Founders Hall.
- Rio Grande 117, Bluffton 71 in Founders Hall's second season. Rio Grande star Bevo Francis scored 82 points (then a national record) in front of what remains the largest crowd to ever see a game at BC. Francis averaged over 50 points per game as Rio Grande defeated several Division I schools during the season.
- Bluffton 91, Findlay 89 in 1957-58. Bluffton guards Abe Mast (35 points) and Ron Kalb (30 points) combined for the third-highest scoring duo in BC history to snap a 30-game losing streak to the Oilers that spanned 17 years.
- Bluffton 108, Malone 87 on March 5, 1973 in the first round of the NAIA District 22 Tournament. Bluffton won their first-ever post season game as Clair Recker scored a school record 44 points (broken in 1995 by Jamie Yount's 46 points against Goshen).
- Manchester 78, Bluffton 76 on February 15, 1995. Led by head coach Steve Alford, Manchester was undefeated at the time and went on to the Division III Final 4, but barely escaped Founders Hall as Bluffton's Jeremy Best scored 27 points and Jamie Yount added 25. Bluffton led 40-35 at halftime but saw Manchester sink a shot at the buzzer to take the win in front of a huge crowd.
Founders Hall was built with a full-length stage on one side of the gym, which was a building style in the 1940s and 1950s, mainly for financial reasons that made the facility multi-dimensional. The stage soon became home to the BC students and has remained as a Bluffton tradition ever since, creating a unique home court atmosphere.
And now as Founders Hall celebrates its 50th birthday, Bluffton College is beginning to prepare for what will be its replacement. The design and funding process for a new athletic and recreational facility is currently in the initial planning stages.
Special thanks to Ron Geiser and current BC staff member Paul Jackson, who hit the winning shot in overtime against Ashland in that first game, for contributing to this article.