INSTITUTE, W.Va. -- "The Pit'' is a special place for Bryan Poore.
"We've had a lot of good runs up there,'' the West Virginia State men's basketball coach said after Monday's final practice in the gym located on the second floor of Fleming Hall. "Of that eight-year stretch where we won five championships we had a lot of good wins and good memories up in that gym.''
Memories are all that are left as the Yellow Jackets herald in a new era this weekend when they christen their brand new 1,350-seat Convocation Center, which is part of a $15 million renovation and expansion of Fleming Hall, which began hosting basketball games in 1942.
"We've been pretty good at home. I think what I'll do is show the recruits film of the new gym and keep playing in the old gym,'' joked Poore.
"It's an excellent facility. They've done a great job putting it together. I can't see anything right now that we've missed. The paint on the floor to the locker rooms, I think everything is first class.''
This week's festivities leading up to State's first game in the Convocation Center against the University of Charleston on Saturday evening includes Thursday's fund-raising dinner for the men's basketball program, which will feature honoree and speaker Earl Lloyd, a State graduate and National Basketball Hall of Fame trailblazer who became the first African-American to play in the National Basketball Association.
State will unveil a statue of Lloyd in front of the Convocation Center and formally dedicate the facility at 6 p.m. Friday.
The latest renovations include new offices and locker rooms. The multipurpose Convocation Center will also host volleyball matches and graduations.
"I kind of hate to see us not play in the old gym,'' said State athletic director Sean Loyd. "It has tradition and a lot of history.
"[The Convocation Center is] just a larger stage and there's a buzz around it. It's a big deal too, since not just the student-athletes will have access. We're going to be able to bring other people to campus.''
State has also begun construction on a new dormitory and will soon break ground on an athletic complex.
"I really think it's a beginning of a new era for our campus,'' Poore said. "In the next year the face of the campus is going to change.
"It's somehing we've needed to give us a boost. It's been tough on us the last couple of years, but I think we've got the foundation in place for the future. I think we're pretty well positioned.''
Reach Tommy R. Atkinson at tatkin...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-4811.