There’s just no missing the screaming red and gold hawk’s head window decal, with a beak raised skyward as if urging on its namesake IIT Scarlet Hawk basketball players to make just one more slam dunk. At a size on par with the replica skull of Sue the Tyrannosaurus rex at Chicago’s Field Museum, the Keating Sports Center’s courtside window treatment is perhaps the most distinctively visual enhancement of many completed at the center this academic year. Athletic Director Joe Hakes sees these improvements as bringing the center into the twenty-first century.
“Keating was built in the late 1960s when there were no female sports at IIT; athletic programs have changed much over the years,” he points out. “The average lifespan of a college gymnasium is just about 25 years; our building is about 50. We’re trying to grow into it by retrofitting and redecorating as much as we can. Many students today expect that college gyms will have more of a health-club feel. I believe that no student makes a decision about where to go to school based totally on the facilities, but it can be an eliminating factor.”
Simple but noticeable changes utilizing IIT’s hawk mascot appear throughout Keating Center, from Ekco Pool to a Scarlet Hawk-camouflaged storage closet converted from an old trophy case. This summer a newly designed floor is being installed on the basketball/volleyball court. Also, in a project with IIT’s Robert W. Galvin Center for Electricity Innovation, plans are underway to install LED lighting throughout the center powered by solar panels erected on Keating’s roof last fall.
“I see what we’re doing at Keating as being an investment in a student-athlete’s college experience,” says Hakes. “When the center was built—and designed by a student of [Ludwig] Mies van der Rohe—a lot of small college gyms didn’t have this much space. What we’re doing now is better defining the space; it’s our interesting blank canvas. We want our teams to feel at home playing here.”