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Cardinal Justin Rigali, Archbishop of Philadelphia,
blesses The Mirenda Center for Sport, Spirituality
and Character Development at the opening of the
building on October 17th
Not even a nor’easter could dampen the spirits of the Neumann family on October 17 as the University opened its new Mirenda Center for Sport, Spirituality and Character Development with a blessing and ribbon-cutting ceremony. The building is named after Dr. Rosalie Mirenda, president of the University, and her husband Tony. Dr. Mirenda has been with Neumann since 1973 and president for the last 13 years.
Cardinal Justin Rigali, Archbishop of Philadelphia, blessed the facility; State Senator Dominic Pileggi and State Representative Stephen Barrar offered congratulations on behalf of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania; and Jay Devine, chairperson of the University Board of Trustees, recognized the many Sisters of St. Francis of Philadelphia at the event, thanking them for their 44 years of support and donation of 13 acres on which the Center sits.
The Mirenda Center is a $25-million athletic facility,
named after Dr. Rosalie Mirenda, president of the University,
and her husband Tony. Dr. Mirenda has been with Neumann since 1973 and president for the last 13 years.
Designed to be more than an athletic center, the building uses exhibits and storytelling to provide a new perspective on sports, one that goes beyond the obvious element of competition to address the myriad ways in which students learn life lessons and develop character through athletics.
Inside the main lobby that stretches across the entire façade of the Center, visitors will find five illuminated pillars, each of which is home to an exhibit that focuses on examining sports in conjunction with a specific theme. The topics of play, beauty, respect, reflection and balance guide the content of the exhibits, which explore the connection between sports and spiritual growth.
Content ranges from the humorous to the heartwarming. One exhibit tells the touching tale of Sara Tucholsky of Western Oregon University. After she hit her first career home run in a game against Central Washington, she collapsed with a knee injury at first base. In a generous act of sportsmanship, two players from Central Washington’s team carried the injured Tucholsky around the bases so she could complete her home run.
Images of, quotes by or stories about Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, John Cappelletti, Roberto Clemente, Babe Didrikson, Lou Gehrig, Mike Krzyzewski, Willie Mays, Wilma Rudolph, Jim Valvano and other well known sports figures are included in the exhibits.
Deeper inside the Center, around the running track that circles the main gymnasium, interactive audio exhibits will be installed this year. The recordings will offer inspirational sports stories and even allow visitors to record their own sports-related experiences that led to a spiritual insight or epiphany.
Rosalie and Tony Mirenda (left) are showered in streamers
as the crowd of more than 700 shows its approval of
the Center’s new name.
The 72,000-square-foot facility seats 1,400 in the gymnasium and includes team training areas, a fitness center, a dance studio, locker rooms, student lounges, and a media production room. Some offices are also located in the Center, which is fully equipped with wireless computer access.
A community hall – suitable for lectures, concerts, dinners and liturgies – is located at the rear of the building. It can accommodate crowds as large as 500. A hospitality suite, a classroom and a café complete the public areas in the Center.
In addition, the University is pursuing Silver LEED accreditation (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) for the building, which has many environmentally friendly features: rooftop-mounted HVAC units, air ventilation based on CO2 sensors, large building overhangs, low-flow plumbing fixtures, high-efficiency lighting systems, and many more.
The Center is also home to the Institute for Sport, Spirituality and Character Development. Founded in 1999, the four-member Institute promotes the inherent value of sport as a means of moral and spiritual growth through research, presentations, workshops and teaching. The director of the Institute and one of the principal sources of the exhibit content is Ed Hastings, Ph.D. Hastings played basketball at Villanova University and was a starter on the 1971 team that lost the NCAA national championship game to UCLA.
Cutting the ribbon for the Mirenda Center for Sport, Spirituality and Character Development are sophomore Caitlin Lotty; Sr. Esther Anderson, OSF, congregational minister of the Sisters of St. Francis of Philadelphia;
junior Bill Keenan; Cardinal Justin Rigali; Dr. Rosalie Mirenda, president of Neumann University; Jay Devine, chairperson of the University Board of Trustees; Charles Sack, University athletic director; and Ed Hastings,
director of the Institute for Sport, Spirituality and Character Development.