Johns Hopkins unveils plans for $10 million lacrosse facility

Blue Jays will break ground on Cordish Lacrosse Center in June

(Drawing by Dongik Lee / For…)
February 15, 2011|By Kevin Van Valkenburg, The Baltimore Sun

The Johns Hopkins lacrosse program has always considered "tradition" to be the best part of its sales pitch when wooing high school recruits.

But the school doesn't mind admitting that even the grandest traditions can use a little updating as time goes by.

That's why the school announced Tuesday that it plans to build a $10 million, 14,000-square foot lacrosse facility on the south end of Homewood Field that will serve as the home for its men's and women's programs.

The building -- which will be named the Cordish Lacrosse Center in honor of developer David Cordish, the lead donor and a former Hopkins player -- is believed to be the first of its kind, constructed solely for lacrosse. It will feature new locker rooms, a 50-person theater, a conference room, an academic center, a training room, and a museum documenting the history of the men's and women's programs. The project, which is being funded entirely by private donations, will break ground in June.

"This building will once again set us apart from every other lacrosse program in the country," said Johns Hopkins University president Ronald J. Daniels. "It will give our recruits, from the moment they start dreaming about the Homewood Campus, a sense of what lacrosse means at the Johns Hopkins University. ... The Cordish Lacrosse Center will help ensure our ability to continue competing at the very highest level, and demonstrate our deep and enduring commitment to the sport."

Building a state-of-the-art lacrosse facility is something men's coach Dave Pietramala has been dreaming about for several years. And he and athletics director Tom Calder, with the help of some prominent alumni, quickly sold Cordish, a 1960 Hopkins graduate who played for the Blue Jays for three years, on the idea of being a big part of the project.

"Hopkins has meant a lot to my family," Cordish said. "I back up the goals when I was five and six years old. I went to games, I played here. My children went to games, and now I bring my grandchildren to the games with me."

But the dream didn't become a reality until Cordish invited a group of alumni over to his house for dinner to pitch the idea to Daniels, even though Daniels hadn't even officially taken over as school president. Daniels had been trying to get up to speed on just how important the sport of lacrosse was to Johns Hopkins prior to that dinner, but that meeting made it crystal clear.

"There were a lot of people excited about the idea," Daniels said. "I went to David and I said 'Look, I know how you love the sport and love the university, but this is not going to happen without someone to name this. It was an immediate handshake. It was that quick. He's just been wonderfully, incredibly supportive. Not just financial support, but moral support and encouragement. We're very lucky."

Pietramala said that as the game of the lacrosse has become more popular around the country, recruiting has become even more competitive, and in recent years, he does feel as though he's lost out on a few players who might have been awed by towering athletic facilities on bigger campuses. He believes this building will help level that playing field.

"You have to recognize what we're up against," Pietramala said. "We're a smaller institution. Our campus isn't as large. There is no big-time football or basketball program. Our sell is we have world-class academics, and you get to be the equivalent of that big-time basketball or football player. We don't have a 70,000-person stadium and a 20,000-person basketball court. So this building speaks volumes about the importance of lacrosse to Johns Hopkins. We don't want to lose recruits to other institutions because our facilities aren't up to par."

Although support for the men's program -- which has made the NCAA tournament 39 straight years, and won 899 games during its 124-year history -- was the driving force behind the facility, the women's program will also significantly benefit from the new facilities. Women's coach Janine Tucker walked to the podium when it was her turn to speak during Tuesday's news conference, then humorously zipped around the room and gave out thank you hugs to Daniels, Cordish, and several other prominent Hopkins alumni.

"That was from every member of our women's lacrosse team, and from every member of our men's team, because I knew Coach Pietramala wasn't going to do it," Tucker said. "This is really an extraordinary event for Johns Hopkins University."

The teams are expected to move into the facility by the end of the 2012 season.

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