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Morning Sun
  • Courting the Whetzels

  • Saturday was a big day for Alan and Roberta Whetzel, the Pittsburg State University alums who made the renovation of John Lance Arena possible.

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  • Saturday was a big day for Alan and Roberta Whetzel, the Pittsburg State University alums who made the renovation of John Lance Arena possible.
    The Gorillas men’s and women’s basketball teams played a double-header between arch rivals Northwest Missouri State University on national television, and the brand-new Whetzel Court was dedicated in their honor.
    The couple donated $1.2 million in early 2012 to help pay for the approximately $12 million renovation project. The more than 30,000 feet of hardwood, which, aside from the basketball court, also has seven volleyball courts and fits 14 portable basketball courts, spans the entire arena. The new bleachers on the north and south sides were replaced, and the arena can seat 3,250 fans.
    Before the women’s game Saturday morning, members of the women’s and men’s basketball teams, university officials and former coach Gene Iba gathered in front of the north bleachers with the Whetzel family to dedicate the court.
    “Today we honor the past, celebrate the present and look to the future,” Roberta said to the crowd. “We’re celebrating today with family and friends, and it’s exciting to see the transformation of the arena. The future of Pittsburg State athletics is bright. For Alan and I, this is paying it forward.”
    After her remarks, Roberta, Alan, PSU president Steve Scott, athletics director Jim Johnson and the Whetzel’s daughters Joe McKenliss, Jan Young and Judy Whetzel unveiled the inscription “Whetzel Court,” to the applause of the fans and members of the men’s and women’s basketball teams presented them with personalized framed jerseys.
    After the ceremony, Roberta said the ceremony was “extremely moving” for both she and her husband.
    “There were so many of our past associates here at Pittsburg State, we were amazed to see all these people come early, come from Kansas City, come from all over to be here to celebrate with us,” she said. “It was really nice. The Gorilla Nation has always managed to show up at the right time. It was great.”
    She also said she and Alan spent many days keeping up with the construction.
    “We came down three times in one week because when they stacked all those little boards out there and then those guys would come along and they have that hammer that knocks them in, it was just a fascinating experience,” she said. “Alan’s family were in the lumber business. He had very definite ideas about maple flooring and wood. I can’t imagine having a job that you bent over and you kicked all those boards, pounded them in and then you came back and nailed them all in. Those guys, they were phenomenal individuals physically. I would say the construction of that floor was something that we never imagined we would have the opportunity to see.”

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