Jacksonville University: Basketball Performance Center

Michael Cheney, Writer

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A long awaited and well-deserved gift arrived for Jacksonville University’s basketball teams this January.

Their gift, the Basketball Performance Center, opened its doors across from Swisher Gym on January 25 2022, an achievement that is over a decade in the making.

Progress has been steady since October 2020 when construction company Balfour Betty broke ground, and the $10 million, 26,000-square-foot facility boasts a slew of features including a full size court, a half size court, a weight room full of brand new equipment, locker rooms, and coaching staff offices.

 

The Main Court in the Basketball Performance Center (Photo courtesy of Michael Cheney)

 

“The Performance Center was built as a home base,” said Jack Warren, Director of Operations for the basketball teams. “…a place where we can house everything from offices, the weight room, the courts. [It is] connected with Swisher Gym. It’s got our training room, a locker room…making this a one stop shop.”

Everything the Performance Center offers was previously split between Swisher Gym, the Fieldhouse, and the athletics offices in Botts Hall, including the courts which both basketball teams, the women’s volleyball team, and the cheer and dance teams shared at any given time, said Warren.

Now the centralization of each of these facilities into one location gives JU’s basketball teams an ideal hub of operations, allowing them to train with an enhanced level of convenience and focus, said Warren.

This hub likely wouldn’t exist without the efforts of its two most influential advocates.

“Alex Ricker-Gilbert, our Athletic Director, was instrumental,” said Warren. “As well as President Cost were two huge, monumental figures in wanting this to happen and really provide the best experience for our men’s basketball and women’s basketball student athletes.”

When speaking to Alex Ricker-Gilbert, Jacksonville University’s Athletic Director of six years, about the Performance Center, his passion for the project is unmistakable. One of his goals as Athletic Director was to provide the men’s and women’s basketball teams with one thing: a home.

“It’s not just a place for us to get shots up in,” said Ricker-Gilbert, “It’s a place for them to call home. They see their coaches, they’re able to study there, they practice, they lift, their locker room is right next door, and so it allows for more convenience and opportunity to do what they need to do.”

Opportunity for the basketball teams to grow and improve is a major benefit that the Performance Center brings, but it brings other opportunities, as well.

Before the Basketball Performance Center was finished, there were five programs that needed to use the Swisher Gym court at any given time. That single court gets pretty cramped pretty quick with five teams on it, which makes it both hard to improve and hard to recruit to, said Ricker-Gilbert.

With the basketball teams having a central hub in the Basketball Performance Center, campus is opened up. The number of teams using Swisher Gym’s court was cut from five to three overnight, affording each team more room on the schedule and more time to improve. The Performance Center’s weight room also removes the need for the basketball teams to lift at the Fieldhouse, allowing for greater freedom in scheduling for every athletic team on campus, said Ricker-Gilbert.

The benefits of the Performance Center’s opening can already be seen when looking at the men’s basketball team’s undefeated home record, their 21-9 overall record, and the women’s basketball team’s 16-13 overall record for the 2021-2022 season.

The Performance Center’s benefits aren’t exclusive to current JU athletes.

“We’ve never really done basketball camps or community gatherings on this campus because we haven’t had the facility,” said Ricker-Gilbert on recruiting. “Now with Swisher and the Performance Center, we can have camps here in the summer, which attracts more people to your university, which could ultimately lead to more students and support coming to your university.”

Beyond the addition of new athletes and the improvements that the current roster has already seen, there is another benefit that comes with the Performance Center’s status as a central hub. It brings the teams closer together, since with everything being centralized relationships can grow organically, and it’s a benefit that the Athletics Department is looking to emulate in future projects.

“That’s what we’re gonna continue to try to do,” said Ricker-Gilbert, “Because it’s worked. And it’s what I think makes JU special.”

Picture of Jacksonville University players at the Feb. 9 game against Eastern Kentucky (Photo courtesy of Peyton Hinton)