Mt. San Jacinto College's gym was constructed in 1966, its baseball field in 1972 and its football stadium in 1992. The college's athletic facilities had never been upgraded and were, to be kind, showing their age. It wasn't pretty.
"We saw stuff on local media about how antiquated our facilities were, and it was obvious to anyone who stepped on campus. It was just short of embarrassing," Patrick Springer, MSJ's Men's Head Basketball Coach, Director of Athletics, Dean of Students, Dean of Physical Education and Athletics, and chief mover and shaker, told the Press-Enterprise, which is based in Riverside and is the largest media enterprise in the rapidly expanding Inland Empire.
Nine of the Eagles' 11 sports are based at the college's main campus in San Jacinto. Softball and women's soccer are based at the Menifee campus, and practice and play at new facilities. Back on the San Jacinto campus, the remaining sports have practiced and played at some of the most dilapidated facilities in California.
Those days are now officially in the past. Thanks to passage of a $295 million bond issue in 2014, Mt. San Jacinto's aging facilities have been refurbished to the point one can hardly recognize them.
The grass and weed playing surface at Carl Quandt Stadium has been replaced with a beautiful new artificial turf surface, surrounded by a synthetic all-weather track, and features a refurbished scoreboard, new play clocks, new restrooms and a new team building with locker, training and storage rooms. The Eagles are now playing home football games on campus.
The baseball field is being done redone with new sod, new bullpens, batting cages, training and storage areas, shade structures, new bleachers and new press box. The facility appears, well, new.
And, except for all the championship banners, the gym is almost unrecognizable, with a new floor, new scoreboard, new bleachers, new lighting, and an expanded and remodeled shower shower and locker building.
On top of all that, weight and strength facilities have been refurbished for all the Eagles sports.
"(The construction) was all phased, so there's no delay in any of the athletic activities," district Public Information Officer Karin Marriott told the Press-Enterprise.
Amazingly, under transplanted Iowans Springer, a former star in the Big Ten at the University of Iowa, and women's coach Chris Mozga, a native of Des Moines, Mt. San Jac's basketball teams have enjoyed incredible success over the years in the now-defunct Foothill Conference and now the Pacific Coast Athletic Conference -- despite the facilities gap. As the facilities have steadily deteriorated, the Eagles have enjoyed more and more success as the years have rolled by.
Springer's men's team has gone 231-83 over the last 10 years, with two state runner-up finishes, 12 conference titles, 33 post-season appearances, 32 all-state selections and two NBA players. This upcoming season, Springer's team will seek its 10th consecutive 20-win season and fifth straight conference title.
The women's coach, Mozga, has produced two 30-win seasons, five conference titles since 2007, averaging 27 wins over the last five seasons, and 11 consecutive 20-win seasons. He's been named conference Coach of the Year seven times and State Coach of the Year once, matching previously being selected State Men's Basketball Coach of the Year in his previous life as a coach at College of the Desert. His 2012-13 Mt. San Jac women's team reached the CCCAA State Championship game.
And now Springer and Mozga will have an opportunity to do their things in a sparkling facility that almost no one will recognize.
And those antiquated facilities that were a "near embarrassment" to athletes and the student body?
"Now we've got facilities that our student athletes can be proud of, and we've already started to see that in the way they carry themselves," Springer told the Press-Enterprise.