HCC Community Reacts to Last Games in the Athletic and Fitness Center


Shaunak Patil

The soon to be decommissioned HCC Athletics & Fitness Center front view.

Ozair Hussain

The last games in the Athletic and Fitness Center, also known as the Dragon’s Lair, before it levels up to the new Mathematics and Athletics Complex was a doubleheader versus the CCBC Titans Saturday, Dec. 10.

The first game of the doubleheader was the women’s game at 12 p.m. followed by the men’s game at 2 p.m. The ticket price for non-students was $10, and fans had the opportunity to enter to win two tickets to the Washington Wizards vs. Chicago Bulls game Wednesday, Jan. 11. Fans added their names to the drawing either online or at the door, and all proceeds raised support the Athletic program.

Women’s basketball head coach Eryn Withers said she was “excited about coaching the last game in the AFC” and that it was “an honor to go down in history as the last team to play on this floor.”

Withers was previously an assistant coach at HCC between 2012-14 before returning as associate head coach of the women’s basketball team in 2017. Withers served as interim head coach of the team from August 2020 before being named head coach in July 2021.

Withers said, “starting as an assistant and moving to into the head coaching role in this program has been a great experience.”

HCC’s Athletics & Fitness Center with the new Mathletics building under construction in the distance. (Shaunak Patil)

With there being no home volleyball or basketball games until the completion of the Mathematics and Athletics Complex, Withers said she “would just like to thank the fans for their continued support. This program has gone through ups and downs, but the fans still showed up and supported no matter the outcome.” Withers went on to say that she hopes the fans will show up to support in the new gym as well.

Regarding the potential impact the Mathematics and Athletics Complex will have on the future of her program, Coach Withers said she “thinks (it) will have a great impact. We have a beautiful campus, and the addition of the new building will no doubt add to that.”

Withers finished by saying, “athletes, recruits (and) kids want to workout and play in nice, new, state of the art building facilities…it’s exciting for us!”

Director of Athletics and men’s basketball head coach Michael Smelkinson shares a similar sentiment.

When asked how feels to coach the last home game at the Athletic and Fitness Center, Smelkinson said, “It is a bittersweet feeling. The sweet part being the fact we are elevating our facilities and the bitter part being we will never play another game in this historic AFC building.”

Hallway in the soon to be decommissioned HCC Athletics & Fitness center. (Shaunak Patil)

Smelkinson was initially a coach at HCC from 2011-14 with an overall record of 49-40. Since returning to HCC in 2019, he has compiled a 49-15 record which includes two 20-win seasons.

When asked about leaving in 2014 and whether or not he would coach at the college again, Smelkinson said, “At the time I did not, but it didn’t take long for me to realize that this was the place for me.” Regarding his return, he said, “one of the many things that attracted me back to Howard was the discussion of the future athletic complex.”

Smelkinson wanted to thank fans of the volleyball and basketball teams for sticking them. He added, “our staff, coaches and student-athletes put in an unmeasurable amount of work to make sure that we are competing at a high level in all areas that make up intercollegiate athletics.”

Regarding the impact the Mathematics and Athletics Complex will have on both the college and program, Smelkinson said, “our game-day experience for indoor sports will be magnificent…(the) building will attract more prospects from more places and it will be another example why we are the best community college in the country.”

HCC President Dr. Daria Willis said that the final games are “a historic moment for our amazing athletic staff and students” and “to have the opportunity to play in the final game in (the Athletic and Fitness Center) is historical.” Willis also went on to say she “is proud we are ushering in a state-of-the-art facility.”

State-of-the-art Mathletics building under construction across the street from the Hickory Ridge building. (Shaunak Patil)

Regarding there being no home sporting events until the completion of the Mathematics and Athletics Complex, Willis encouraged fans of those respective sports teams to “please continue supporting our teams. I know they will continue to make us proud.”

Concerning the impact of the Complex, Willis said, “the new facility is an innovative approach to fusing academics and athletics.” Willis added, “I have always believed that our athletes are students first, and the opportunity to study and practice in the same building enhances our goal that every athletic student not only reaches their potential on the court but in the classroom as well.”

It is clear the last games being held at the Athletic and Fitness Center came through with a lot of emotion. However, the history and impact it had on the development and growth of both the athletic program and college will not be forgotten. The Athletic and Fitness Center built the foundation for the new Complex, which aims to not only advance the college in terms of athletics but academics as well.