Last spring, when the curtain officially closed on the Indoor Athletic Building (IAB) as the home of Harvard basketball, there was a ceremony to commemorate the decrepit old place, and maybe even a few tears shed by some faithful alumni. Yet despite the considerable histrionics, everyone conceded that the IAB had outlived its usefulness.
A new facility was planned, one that would offer an improved playing surface, spacious seating, and maybe even a scoreboard that worked. Best of all, there would be no more four-story climb to the court, as there always was at the IAB. Harvard officials reasoned that all this, combined with a steadily improving Harvard basketball program, could only boost attendance, which has proved marginal at best over the years.
And so with a perfect site (the old Briggs Cage track facility) vacated, and a healthy lump of alumni donations. Harvard gave the Columbia Construction Company of Reading the go-ahead to begin work on the new court.
The facility was scheduled to open in early November, just more than a week before the start of the men's and women's seasons. A special game was slated for the men against Stanford University, during which the Briggs Cage court was to be dedicated. Stanford had been chosen--at least in part--because President Bok used to play for them, says John P. Reardon '60, director of athletics.
But now the Columbia Construction Company has informed Harvard that the facility will not be ready in time for the Stanford game, will not be ready at least until after Christmas, and, in fact, may not be ready at all this season.
The chief reasons for the delay, according to Columbia officials, are the strikes by Boston-area masonworkers and carpenters that occurred this summer. Though the carpenters' strike and the masons' strike, which went on simultaneously, account for only a 13-week delay, the delay expected on the Briggs facility will probably come to no less than 23 weeks, and some Harvard administrators are wondering whether the strikes are the only reasons for the delay.
Some officials believe that Columbia may be juggling the University project with several other jobs, and may therefore not be giving a full effort to completing it on time. Columbia workers at the site refuse to comment and efforts to reach spokesmen at the firm's main office have been unavailing.
Now the basketball teams face the prospect of returning to the IAB, a building to which they had officially bade farewell. And though men's coach Frank McLaughlin insists that going back to the IAB will not hurt his team's morale, there will no doubt be more than a touch of disappointment in the hearts of the players and their fans as they start their long trek up the cold, hard stairs of the IAB on opening day.
There will be no opening ceremony this winter, even if Briggs Cage is finished before the season ends. Instead, Harvard will fly out to California this year in a game that will probably have Stanford fans wondering why it was arranged. Stanford will fly out next year to dedicate Briggs, Reardon says.
For the time being, it's back to the IAB, and, most likely, back to sparse crowds. There will be no tearful ceremony when Harvard bids farewell for the second (and, we all hope last) time, because, as Joe Bertagna, director of sports information, says, "It would be a little embarrassing."
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