One of the first on-campus facilities for indoor sports among Michigan Intercollegiate Athletic Association members, Kresge Gymnasium is Michigan's oldest active intercollegiate athletic facility.
Built in 1925 as a replacement for the College gymnasium destroyed in a January 1922 fire, Kresge saw its first event on Jan. 8, 1926, when Albion defeated Olivet in an MIAA men's basketball contest, 30-21. Albion went 13-7 that season, winning six of eight home contests. The next season, Albion stepped up its game, finishing with a 15-4 mark, including a 7-1 home record and the league championship.
Over the years, Kresge has developed into quite a multi-purpose facility. Until the opening of the Dow Recreation and Wellness Center in the fall of 1988, Kresge would be in use virtually around the clock. Basketball teams would share practice times in January and February with track, baseball and softball. Midnight intramural games mingled with lacrosse and men's volleyball club practices. Varsity and junior varsity volleyball and basketball players would practice by day, play by night, and clean the building in the morning.
As the College's sports offerings would expand, so would the unique ways members of the athletic and physical education staffs would find to allocate office, work and classroom space. And, for 40 years, Kresge wasn't just home to basketball, volleyball and winter sports practices, but a full competition, six-lane pool in the basement served as the home for Albion College swimming and diving.
Kresge Gymnasium has undergone major changes since its inception. The building of the Dean Aquatic Center in 1979 literally opened new avenues for the Briton swimming and diving program, allowing for diving competition on both the one- and three-meter boards for the first time.
In the spring of 1988, the interior of Kresge was opened up, almost from outer wall to outer wall. Gone were the elevated seats and makeshift offices and storage areas. The main playing surface was expanded to offer two full volleyball courts for practices and expanded tournaments, retractable seating for nearly 1,400 persons, and a regulation-length basketball court with expanded practice areas.
In place of the basement pool, one-half of the area was turned over to new locker rooms for varsity and visiting teams, and the other half was transformed into a dance studio and classroom. The former upstairs classroom overlooking the court was remodeled and now serves as offices for men's and women's basketball, as well as the Prentiss M. Brown Lounge for teams and guests. Additional floor offices and storage areas, as well as a video classroom, are located on the west side of the building.
Kresge received a bold new look in 2014 with the addition of graphics celebrating the proud tradition of Briton athletics in the facility.
The new graphics honor some of the greatest alumni to compete in the gymnasium as MIAA women’s basketball most valuable player Cathy Bachinski, ’84, Melissa Wasburn, ’81, who sits third on the women’s basketball program’s all-time scoring list, Morgan Watler, ’10, an all-MIAA first team performer who graduated as the volleyball program’s all-time leader in kills, Sarah Slamer, ’07, who sits second on the volleyball program’s all-time kills and aces lists, MIAA men’s basketball MVP John Nibert, ’79, and former NCAA president Cedric Dempsey, ’54, a two-time all-MIAA first team pick in men’s basketball, are featured in window fills on the west side of the building.
Albion commemorated its MIAA championships in men’s and women’s basketball on signage behind the north and south baselines, and signature victories by former men’s basketball coach Mike Turner and current women’s basketball coach Doreen Carden are recognized with signage signifying the Britons’ MIAA rivals on the east side.
The earth on the quadrangle around Kresge Gymnasium was moved in the summer of 2014, as the building was outfitted with underground heating coils to help with the removal of moisture in the winter. The Kresge entrance is also receiving an accessibility ramp and automatic door openers, and purple and gold spotlighting will allow the campus community to know when contests are being played inside the historic facility.
World Leaders: Former President George Bush made the front steps of Kresge his platform as commencement speaker while serving as vice president in 1986.
National Champions: Albion's "Welcome Home" ceremonies for the NCAA Division III Football Champion Britons in 1994 brought campus and community together at Kresge Gymnasium.
Concerts: Among the notables playing to audiences at Kresge were contemperary pop artists Neil Diamond, John Denver, and the rock group Chicago.
Distinguished Alumni: Kresge's front steps usually serve as the gathering place for students receiving diplomas for graduation. Among Albion's notable grads are:
Carolyn E. Aishton, '64, Vice President, Corporate Programs, Avon Products, Inc., New York, New York.
David L. Camp, '75, U.S. House of Representatives (Michigan 4th District), Washington, D.C.
Kevin Chan, '83, Co-Director, Lung Transplant Program, Henry Ford Hospital, Detroit
Cedric Dempsey, '54, and Daniel Boggan, '67, President and Senior Vice President, respectively, of the National Collegiate Athletic Association, Indianapolis, Indiana.
Sally Pettengill Ginter, '67, Global Project Director, Dow Chemical Company, Midland.
Edmund L. Jenkins, '57, Chairman, Financial Accounting Standards Board, Norwalk, Connecticut.
Gary R. Noble, '57, Executive Director of Clinical Research, Direct Access Diagnostics, Bridgewater, New Jersey; Rhodes Scholar; Former Assistant Surgeon General, United States Public Health Service.
John W. Porter, '53, CEO, Urban Education Alliance, Inc., Ann Arbor; President Emeritus, Eastern Michigan University; Former Michigan Superintendent of Public Instruction.
Richard M. Smith, '68, Chairman and Editor-in-Chief, Newsweek, New York, New York.