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A pillar of student life—Justice Center

By Kevan Frazier '92

For more than 47 years, the Charles Justice Sports, Health and Recreation Center, also known simply as the Justice Center, has brought fans as close to the action as any facility in intercollegiate athletics. The gymnasium's intimate design sometimes caught opposing team players off guard as it seemed that rowdy Bulldog fans surrounded them as they played.

The Gymnasium, as it was originally called, was dedicated on December 17, 1963, during a campus-wide assembly. Interestingly, it was also during that ceremony that Chancellor William Highsmith and members of the faculty shared with the students their plans to transform the college into one of the nation's first public liberal arts institutions. From the opening day, the importance of the relationship between athletics and academics at the university was set.

Although the college began naming its buildings after important community and college leaders about the same time that Justice was built, it was not until the fall of 1975 at the annual Tip-Off Tournament that the Gymnasium Complex was named in honor of Charles "Choo-Choo" Justice.

Justice was, at the time, Western North Carolina's most famous sports figure, and still is considered one of the greatest football players in UNC-Chapel Hill's history. Justice led the Tar Heels to three bowl games in the years following World War II. Even though UNC Asheville had not fielded a football team for more than 20 years prior to the dedication, it seemed fitting to name the sports complex after this Asheville native who was one of the state's first true sports superstars.

retrospect

In the 1980s, the Justice Center served as a glorious battlefield for the 1984 National Championship Women's Basketball Team. It also was during those years that the athletics program transitioned from the NAIA to the NCAA. The women's volleyball team, which also called Justice home, claimed back-to-back Big South Championships in 1991 and 1992. All told, some 2,000 athletic events have transpired on those maple floors as students pushed themselves to achieve new heights on and off the court.

Homecoming 2011 marked the end of an era at the Justice Center as the Bulldog men's basketball team played their last regular season game there. In an epic farewell finale, the men's team crushed Radford and went on to claim the Big South Championship.

Beginning in the fall, both the men's and women's basketball teams will host visiting teams in the new 3,200-seat Joseph Kimmel Arena housed within the Wilma M. Sherrill Center. The Justice Center, however, will remain the home of Bulldog volleyball and will continue to offer recreational programs, intramural sports and other athletic activities for the campus and the local community. With a recently installed new court surface, (the result of a flood during the summer of 2010), the Justice Center is ready for another five decades of Bulldog athletics.

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