CHARLESTON, W.Va. - West Virginia State men's basketball coach Bryan Poore has been so focused on a new beginning, he didn't consider the end.
The Yellow Jackets host the University of Virginia at Wise in Fleming Hall at 7:30 tonight, the final game in a gym that first started hosting basketball games in 1942. The $15 million renovation and expansion of the building includes the 1,350-seat Convocation Center, which will open this Saturday when State hosts the University of Charleston in a men's and women's doubleheader.
Poore has juggled his responsibilities as a Division II coach with preparing for this weekend's festivities, which includes the dedication of the Convocation Center at Fleming Hall on Friday.
"I haven't had enough time for it to sink in because we've been focused on opening the new place," Poore said of saying goodbye to the 900-seat gym that State hoops has called home for parts of the last eight decades. "It is kind of a bittersweet thing for me and it's going to be a bittersweet moment because I have a lot of fond memories of 'The Pit,'"
The original Fleming Hall was erected in 1892 as the first academic building on campus. It cost $9,526 to build. In 1940, the building was dismantled and the new Fleming Hall was completed. It included the gymnasium, swimming pool, activities room and health center.
The latest renovation includes new offices and locker rooms, but the multi-purpose Convocation Center will host basketball games, volleyball matches and graduations.
The old gymnasium will still be used as a practice facility, which will help accommodate athletic programs at State that have to vie for the same practice space.
"It's served its purpose for us and the basketball program," Poore said. "And it's still going to be here for us and we will no longer have the problem of not having enough indoor space to practice like you have with only one gym."
W.Va. State is closing out old Fleming in style. The Yellow Jackets, who are 11-13 overall and 7-13 in Mountain East Conference play, enter tonight's game on their first three-game winning streak in more than two years. All three wins have come at home.
State has won six of its seven MEC games by single digits, and the last three wins - which includes a non-conference game against Davis & Elkins - have come by a combined nine points.
UVa-Wise is 10-14 overall and tied with W.Va. State in the MEC standings at 7-13. Tonight's game was originally scheduled for Feb. 13, but was postponed because of inclement weather.
The Yellow Jackets' win streak is the second-longest in the league behind this Saturday's opponent and rival, UC, which has won four in a row.
"It's definitely time to move forward and get up to speed in the new arena," Poore said. "It's going to take us to the next level."
Before tonight's men's game, the W.Va. State women's team will host UVa-Wise at 5:30. The Yellow Jackets are 17-9 overall and 13-7 in the MEC. The Wise women are 9-15 overall and 5-15 in league play.