Lehigh’s grapplers may have lost a hard-fought, down-to-the-wire match to nationally ranked Iowa State last Friday. But for the Lehigh family, the first night of wrestling at newly renovated Grace Hall was a resounding success.
The venerable Snake Pit reemerged from its yearlong slumber as Leeman-Turner Arena at Grace Hall, a state-of-the-art sports facility with skyboxes and unobstructed views for the sold-out crowd of 2,138 fans.
As home arena for varsity wrestling and volleyball, a practice facility for the men’s and women’s basketball teams, and the center for intramural and club sports, the new Grace already has been put to the test by numerous student-athletes and coaches, as well as having been seen by many other members of the Lehigh family.
After all of the long hours and hard work put in, the masterpiece is finally completed, and so far, the reviews have been just as inspiring as the arena itself.
Here’s what they’re saying about Grace Hall:"Not a bad seat in the house"
It was time for a change. That was a 60-year-old facility and it was starting to look its age. When I walked into the new facility, I was very impressed. The arena looked great. The first impression that I got was the brightness, it just overwhelms you. The intimacy definitely comes into play; the fans are right on top of the action. It will make for a terrific scene when the place is filled up with people, becoming very loud and raucous. It will be quite intimidating. It’s a little smaller than some of the other venues, but that makes for great sightlines throughout the place. There definitely is not a bad seat in the house. John Harmon ‘59
Benefactor"We’re really happy to be back home"
This is a great place to wrestle and we’re ecstatic to be back in Grace. We really missed it last year, but now we’re back. Our kids enjoy the home-mat advantage that it provides. It’s really electric. It is such a pretty building, very beautiful, and it will serve as a tremendous recruiting tool for the wrestling program here at Lehigh.Greg Strobel
Head Wrestling Coach"It will be hard for opponents to come in here and rattle us"
I was so impressed by the renovations. It looks nothing like it used to. The modern look that the new arena has really made Grace feel more comfortable, especially for the fans. The spectators are right next to the mat, which makes the matches that much more exciting to be in and obviously, to watch. We’re going to have such tremendous support from the fans that it will be hard for opponents to come in here and rattle us. It’s also great to be back in a permanent home, and what a home it is!Derek Zinck ‘06
Sophomore on the wrestling team (157 pounds)"It immediately has one in awe"
It is a great addition for Lehigh wrestling - the brightness of the arena is great, the closeness to the mat is also outstanding, along with the box-like or suite feeling. It will provide a great home arena advantage because the fans will really intimidate the visitors with the arrangement and closeness. Walking into the arena with its freshness and upscale look takes over and immediately has one in awe. It’s also great to have an area for standing room and it will become the wrestling pound for students. Dick Moll ‘61
President of the Lehigh Wrestling Club"The best gym in the conference"
The new Leeman-Turner Arena at Grace Hall is amazing. It is hard to believe that it is even the same gym. I am glad that I was able to play our last four matches in there and I appreciate all of the overtime that went into making that possible. I believe that it is definitely the best gym in the conference. The new facility gives us a steady home that we did not have early in the season, and not only is it permanent, but it’s also beautiful, and fun to play in. Jill Kober ‘04
Senior libero on the volleyball team"A first-class facility"
It’s awesome. It is definitely the best facility in the Patriot League and has to be one of the best on the entire East Coast. I’ve been to a lot of volleyball facilities and it is without a doubt the nicest I’ve ever seen. The way it is designed is good for the speed of the game, it’s good for the fans, and it’s going to help us a great deal in recruiting. This is a first-class facility that presents Lehigh wrestling and volleyball in the way that we want the university to be presented. The floor is equipped with springs underneath it, which helps when jumping and it makes it much easier and safer to dive on, which cause fewer injuries. I would like to say that we are very thankful to the wrestling program and to all of the donors who made this possible; it is just a magnificent facility.Patrick Nicholas
Head Volleyball Coach "Glad the facility is on this side of the mountain"
I think the new arena is great for the basketball team. I like the court and the baskets are definitely nice to play on. I think it looks nice overall. I am glad the facility is on this side of the mountain so that when other students are using Taylor Gym we have the option to workout in a state-of-the-art facility right next door. Austen Rowland ‘04
Senior guard on the men’s basketball team"It has a great feel and a great presence to it"
The new facility is really incredible. It’s first-class, it’s state of the art, and it has a great feel and a great presence to it. Leeman-Turner Arena gives us a wonderful practice facility on this side of the mountain that we can use, which is very convenient. For the wrestling and volleyball programs, it will serve as a tremendous arena for home events. It will definitely be an advantage with how loud it can get. For us, it helps our team in practicing because of the acoustics and the noise level, which forces the players and coaches to communicate much more thoroughly, and to concentrate and focus on the assignment we are trying to accomplish.Billy Taylor
Head Men’s Basketball Coach"It is also nice because of its multi-use benefits"
I think the new facility is absolutely beautiful. I think it is great that they fixed it up. It is also nice because of its multi-use benefits. We used it for practice and it was wonderful. Not only is it nice, but it is convenient as well, as it gives us a facility so close to where we live and have class. Even though we may not use it as much as the wrestling and volleyball teams, we are still grateful for having the arena renovated, and being given the chance to take advantage of this great new venue.Jessica DePalo ‘05
Junior Forward on the women’s basketball team"A commitment to intramurals and club sports"
The recent renovation of Grace Hall and the Leeman Turner Arena is another commitment by the university that illustrates that the Lehigh intramurals and club sports are an important aspect of the overall student experience. Transforming a dark old arena dubbed the “Snake Pit” into a modern facility was just another step taken to enhance more opportunities for increased athletic programming for the student body. Grace Hall will also serve as a convenient home for the IM/Club office, resulting in a dual destination for the student population, with the Ulrich Center on the floor above. A special thanks to the many donors for making this wonderful facility possible for future generations of Lehigh students and student athletes.Jane Josephson
Director of Intramurals and Club Sports"The ghosts of Grace Hall are smiling"
Editor’s Note: In ceremonies before the opening night of wrestling at the renovated Grace Hall, Michael J. Caruso ’67, Lehigh’s only three-time NCAA wrestling champion and a former member of the university’s borad of trustees, spoke eloquently about what Grace Hall has meant to so many in the Lehigh family. Here are his remarks.
The vision and generosity of many, under the leadership of John Harmon, has allowed Lehigh to repolish a fading gem, refurbishing its beauty and grandeur.
I had a preview of the jewel we stand in several weeks ago and my eyes watered when I first saw it. I vividly recalled the excitement thrust upon me when I entered Lehigh 40 years ago. The reasons were so evident. In 1963, this was the only college in the nation that could offer a young man the opportunity for a world-class education combined with top 5 Division 1 wrestling competition. To sweeten the pot, I got to wrestle under the great Gerry Leeman .... in the Snake Pit. What other choice could there be? Today, under the respective guidance of Greg Farrington, with the support of the Trustees, and Coach Strobel, buoyed by Joe Sterrett, those dynamics are still in play and rising with all due speed.
Because change is so pervasive and swift today, it is becoming increasingly difficult to hold on to meaningful rituals in our lives. Playing football in Notre Dame Stadium.... basketball in Pauley Pavilion at UCLA ... they are just not the same anymore. But wrestling in Grace Hall … look around at what we have preserved! John, to use a "Denny Diehl-inspired phrase:" "the ghosts of Grace Hall," including Eugene himself and Billy Sheridan, are all smiling tonight.
I am honored to take part in the dedication of this grand arena of 64 years. It is so fulfilling to be reunited with my teammates once again, with our mentor and coach, along with all the Lehigh coaches, competitors, and wrestling family who are the backbone of support for this program. We are blessed with the greatest fans in the country.
All of us are the stewards of this magnificent venue just as we are to this great university. As such, we must nurture this unique physical plant (as we have), but so much more so, the mission of its gladiators: That is, to continue to produce the "best of the best" when judged as scholars, wrestlers, and contributors to society.
Let me make one thing very clear: I love this place (Grace Hall). I love this campus. I love the people who work here and I love the people who went here. Just to make sure there is no misunderstanding ...I LOVE LEHIGH!
A special thanks:
Lehigh Athletics would like to thank the following people for their generous donations which made the renovations of Grace Hall possible: Wilma and Ben Bishop ‘34, Gloria and Michael G. Bolton ‘67, Michael J. Caruso ‘67, William W. Crouse III ‘64, Dennis R. Diehl ‘70, Daniel DiSanto ‘78, Elaine and John J. Harmon ‘59, Robert M. Holcombe ‘58, Theodor H. Horstmann ‘58, Edgar H Howells ‘34, Edgar H, Howells, Jr. ‘68, Robert D. Howells, Frances E. and Harry B. Levine ‘56, Michael J. Lieberman ‘75, Ira M. Lubert, Ann and Robert M. McCann ‘52, Virginia and James W. Niemeyer ‘43, Sandie and Garry Paul ‘67, Joseph R. Perella ‘64, Victoria and Arthur C. Rutzen ‘70, Daniel E. Smith ‘70, Dr. William A. Stuart ‘66, James B. Swenson ‘59, Frederick S. Townsend ‘58, Ronald J. Ulrich ‘66, Ann T. White, Lawrence E. White.