New locker rooms pay tribute to alumni
Romano 2020 is a process with three phases structured to renovate and modernize Romano Gymnasium and other parts of the athletic department such as team locker rooms.
Currently, the athletics department has found themselves in between phases one and two. They have remodeled Romano Gymnasium by putting in an NCAA grade floor and new floor seating with individual seats instead of bench seating as well as seating that is wheelchair accessible.
The locker rooms are being renovated as they are funded for. All funding for locker room renovations come directly from alumni donations. So far, the renovations for men’s and women’s basketball, volleyball, and football locker rooms have all been completed.
According to the Director of Intercollegiate Athletics, Josh Berlo, the next locker rooms to be renovated are baseball, soccer, track, and softball.
“It’s the same footprint, it’s just taking them from dated, old, tired furnishings to new, modern, higher quality lockers,” said Berlo. “They are wooden lockers instead of old metal lockers. There is new carpet and paint and added points of pride.”
Some of these new points of pride featured in the locker rooms are murals of past teams, school colors, and even plaques for the alumni who donated toward the renovations.
Fundraising for these new locker rooms took a little over a year for each team, but because all funding came from former student athletes, the locker rooms were meant to pay tribute to those who came before the current athletes and for those to come.
“It’s really cool that it’s fully funded by our former players,” said Berlo. “They’re giving back to the team that they played on in a way that is really tangible because they know better than anyone how much time as a student athlete you spend in that space.”
The football team’s lockers feature plaques with the name, jersey number, and hometown of an alumni who donated toward the renovations. Although their gift may not have fully paid for that individual locker, it played a major part in making the locker room a possibility.
According to the women’s basketball coach Mandy Pearson, adding these points of pride to the new locker rooms was important to both the athletes and coaches.
“It really has been an important piece in creating more pride for what we are trying to accomplish as a program,” said Pearson.
Along with the plaques on the lockers themselves, in the team and video suit, which is used by all teams for film study, there is a wall covered in alumni plaques in honor of all alums who donated towards renovations. This wall, along with the locker rooms, will be unveiled on Sept. 13 at the homecoming game.
“We knew it would be an opportunity for a lot of folks to see their names and have their gifts be recognized,” said Berlo. “We thought that was a good time with the number of alumni and individuals that are close to our community to come back or make a point to attend the honoring of some folks who supported this project.”
Senior Director of Athletic Development Dr. Gary Holquist played a big role in creating the Romano 2020 project along with Berlo. Holquist was in charge of helping bring in the funds for the renovations.
“I coached here for 26 years and the last seven years I have directed our development efforts, which is in association with donors, boosters, alumni, and fans, trying to solicit dollars out of them to help run our programs, to help out with program needs, scholarship dollars, any kind of infrastructure for facilities which would include Romano 2020 and our locker projects,” said Holquist.
According to Holquist the athletics department is working really hard to connect with UMD’s outside resources and encourage gifts to help finance these projects.
“For me, it’s an exciting thing that I can bring back our alums and show them these spaces now,” said Holquist. “The ones that have given money to us want to continue to help us with their pledges and others that haven’t, realize they want to be a part of it.”
Holquist hopes that these new locker rooms create a connection between current and past student athletes and encourage today’s athletes to strive to make their realities a possibility for those to come.
“That’s your home. If you have a good environment to come and be a student athlete in, that you take ownership in, and you take pride in that,” Holquist said.
Romano’s renovations were not made only for the athletes and their fans, but for the university and for the community.
“It’s not just an athletic space, it’s a university space,” said Holquist.