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Terwilliger Center for Student-Athletes a 'spectacular' showcase of Naval Academy physical mission

By BILL WAGNER | The Capital, Annapolis, Md. | Published: January 13, 2021

ANNAPOLIS, Md. (Tribune News Service) — Many years ago, Ron Terwilliger told athletic director Chet Gladchuk about his desire to recognize the physical mission of the Naval Academy in a meaningful, tangible way.

After much brainstorming and back-and-forth discussions, the two men settled on creating a facility that tell the story through artifacts, memorabilia and interactive video displays.

That vision has become reality with completion of the Ron Terwilliger Center for Student-Athletes.

Built as an addition to Ricketts Hall, the Terwilliger Center is a 25,000-square foot facility that celebrates the history and tradition of Navy athletics while simultaneously serving as a testament to the academy's commitment to the physical development of the entire Brigade of Midshipmen.

"We formulated an idea almost two decades ago to put the physical mission and varsity athletics front and center and present it in a visual way," Gladchuk said. "I think the way it came out is extraordinary. If a picture says a thousand words, this facility says a million words. Our original vision was realized in spectacular fashion."

Ricketts Hall is a three-story building that had a weight room complex added as a single-story extension years ago. Since arriving at the academy in 2001, Gladchuk has seen the space above the weight room as an obvious opportunity to create a facility.

"That space was calling for something of significance because of the location," he said. "We envisioned a first-class facility that provided a panoramic view of the Naval Academy, Severn River and downtown Annapolis."

Mission accomplished as the Terwilliger Center for Student-Athletes features an all-glass façade facing east with two outdoor balconies.

On a more practical level, the Terwilliger Center immediately becomes a centerpiece for recruiting varsity athletes and future midshipmen that will wind up playing club or intramural sports.

Navy's 33 varsity coaches now have a showcase destination for hosting recruits during their official visits to the academy. Youngsters of all ages spend time on campus attending Navy's various sports camps, and the hope is they will dream of attending the academy after spending time exploring the Terwilliger Center.

"I'm hoping this facility will inspire young people and their parents. I want them to understand what a unique and special place the Naval Academy is," Terwilliger said. "This facility has a lot of dimensions and should serve a lot of purposes. I'm hoping it will give the Naval Academy an edge in recruiting."

Coach Ken Niumatalolo can walk into the upper level of the Terwilliger Center from the lobby of the Navy football offices on the third floor of Ricketts Hall. Niumatalolo, in his 14th season at the helm, has no doubt the addition to Ricketts Hall will boost recruiting.

"I don't think anybody will have anything like this new Terwilliger building. Just the overall scope of it and location — being on the water with such an amazing view — it's one-of-a-kind," Niumatalolo said. "I walk through that building every day and am impressed each time I do."

Privately funded

Terwillinger, a 1963 Naval Academy graduate, donated $15 million to jump-start the project. Gladchuk found other wealthy alumni to cover the remaining $10 million. Construction broke ground in spring 2018 and the center was completed in late 2020.

"We raised money from people who believed in the presentation, who felt what we were doing was very important and very meaningful," Gladchuk said.

Exploration Hall, which is the primary room within the Terwilliger Center, is named in honor of Maurice Tose (Class of 1978), the founder of Annapolis-based TeleCommunications Systems Inc., which he sold for $430 million in 2015.

Elements of Tose Exploration Hall include the Mascot Exhibit (Jim Kelly, 1977), Hall of Champions Exhibit (David Rich, 1979), Army-Navy Exhibit (Mike Yeager, 1976) and Life of a Midshipmen Exhibit (Alex Krekich, 1964).

Groups got together to fund the Women in Navy Sports Exhibit (Women for Navy Athletics Committee), Navy Legends Exhibit (Class of 1965) and Who Will You Become Exhibit (Class of 1951).

Dan Akerson (Class of 1970), a former chairman and CEO of General Motors, funded the 180-degree IMAX theater that features a state-of-the-art surround sound system. The Akerson Tower at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium is also named in his honor.

Navy athletic teams can use the Akerson Theater for a wide range of purposes such as watching game film, holding meetings, listening to speakers or simply watching a movie.

Access the Terwilliger Center from the Class of 1983 Entranceway on the ground floor and you enter the Peter de Vos (1971) & Stuart Bailey (1981) Lobby that is wide open all the way to the roof. Suspended from the ceiling is a exact replica of an F/-18 Hornet, commonly known as a Blue Angel. Built to scale to fit the lobby space, the breathtaking Blue Angel exhibit was sponsored by the Adzima Family.

Gladchuk got the idea from the vintage aircraft that has long hung in Dahlgren Hall as he was "always impressed with aesthetic statement it made."

"When I looked at that foyer with the high ceiling, it just seemed like a natural fit," he said.

The Ted Gurnee (1961) Executive Conference Room, which has all glass windows and overlooks Rip Miller Field and the Severn River, will routinely hold Navy athletics staff meetings.

Visitors can learn about all the Naval Academy Distinguished Graduates inside the Leaders Circle Exhibit (Susan Tucker), a distinctive circular room with bench seating. Pick a name such as Ron Terwilliger, Jimmy Carter or Ross Perot and you can learn all about them through a video and voice-over.

Located at the back end of the Terwilliger Center, overlooking Brownson Road, is the Class of 1972 Sports Performance and Rehabilitation Center. It features the latest and greatest state-of-the-art equipment for Navy's certified athletic trainers to use for rehab and recovery purposes.

Gladchuk expects all 33 varsity sports to utilize the spacious Class of 1984 Team Meeting Room.

Terwilliger took a private tour of the facility once it was mostly completed and was blown away by the final product.

"I think it's an absolutely spectacular facility. Chet took the basic concept and really ran with it," said Terwilliger, who was an Academic All-American as a basketball player and All-East selection as a baseball player. "I could not imagine a more impactful way to celebrate the commitment the Naval Academy has to the physical mission."

History on display

Manhattan Contracting performed the structural work, while Argo Contracting handled all the interior work for the Terwilliger Center for Student-Athletes. Dimensional Innovations installed all the audio-visual displays that feature the latest technology.

What makes the interactive displays so strategically useful is the fact they can be programmed for any purpose. If women's basketball is holding a recruiting event, the displays can be tailored toward that sport and its history.

"Everything in that room can be changed with a computer. We have the flexibility to adapt to any audience by simply altering the theme of every one of those screens," Gladchuk said.

For Gladchuk, a rewarding aspect of the project was the ability to use the Terwilliger Center to put Navy athletic history on display through placement of prized trophies, mementos, photographs and other interesting artifacts.

Members of the Navy athletics department spent two years researching and compiling content for the interactive displays. The Naval Academy Athletic Association put out a call to alumni to share memorabilia for display.

"We took our history and tradition that has been stored on shelfs in dark rooms and brought it to life. Thanks to the Terwilliger Center, we have a much better way to communicate our stories," Gladchuk said.

A real showstopper is the Heisman Trophy exhibit honoring Navy's only winners — Joe Bellino (1960) and Roger Staubach (1963).

The Navy Legends Exhibit enables visitors to learn about such athletic greats as David Robinson (men's basketball), Becky Dowling (women's basketball), Leo Williams (track and field) and Jade Seabrook (women's soccer). A touch of a screen calls up biographies of coaching greats as Ed Peery (wrestling), Cindy Timchal (women's lacrosse), Glenn Warner (men's soccer) and Dave Smalley (women's basketball).

"You look at the information displayed in those kiosks, it's extremely comprehensive. This allows anyone to walk into this facility and reflect on moments in Navy sports that might been meaningful to them," Gladchuk said.

Navy is targeting the weekend of April 23-24 for the official dedication of the the Terwilliger Center for Student-Athletes, which will be open to the public as soon as public safety and health guidelines allow.

"I couldn't be more pleased with the way it came out. It is truly a statement room," Gladchuk said. "If the hair isn't standing up on the back of your neck when you come out of that place something's wrong with you."

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