With most of Ryerson’s varsity teams set to move into the Peter Gilgan Center upon its completion later this year, Chris Babic takes a look back at the legacy Kerr Hall leaves behind
With 30.5 seconds on the clock, Luke Staniscia, a graduating power forward on the men’s basketball team, heads to the free-throw line with the Ryerson Rams leading the Ottawa Gee-Gees by four points with an Ontario University Athletics (OUA) semi-final berth on the line. A sweeping hush falls across the lips of over 900 plus screaming fans who packed Kerr Hall’s stands one last time. Staniscia nails both free-throws to extend the Rams’ lead to six. With four seconds left now, the Gee-Gees have pulled to within one point. And they have the ball to inbound.
It is hard not to be romantic about sports. The thrill of close games, the poetic nuances of the way the boards play, or the way the stands groan, all have a place in the collective hearts of fans and players alike. But as the game modernizes, so must the facilities.
As Ryerson’s athletics program has evolved under athletic director Ivan Joseph, the need for modern facilities had become all too clear. So in the winter of 2012, the Ryerson Rams will move their hockey, volleyball and basketball teams to the soon-to-be completed Peter Gilgin Centre at the Gardens, the former home of the Toronto Maple Leafs.
The quarter-final bout between Ottawa and Ryerson is the last competitive match that will ever scuff the floors of Kerr Hall Gym and the Rams will bid farewell to the gym they’ve called home for over half a century. In the late 50s Ryerson was growing at an impressive rate, steadily adding hundreds of new students annually to their enrollment total.
With a growing student body, it created one major problem for the university which has haunted it to this day: finding enough space for all the facilities needed in the core of downtown Toronto. So Ryerson demolished the old Toronto Normal School and built around it a monument to 60s block architecture, thus giving the campus Kerr Hall Gym.
It was hailed as a new era of athletic prowess and achievement at Ryerson, but by the 70s it was already outdated. Ryerson’s athletic progress outpaced its facilities. Enter Robert Fullerton — Ryerson’s athletic director during the 1970s. In 1976 Fullerton said that “the shortage of facilities goes a long way towards explaining the state of athletics at this downtown institution.”
Yet Fullerton never had such strong support from the school’s president, and so Kerr Hall Gym stayed Ryerson’s home for all these years. Kerr Hall Gym was also the spot where many first year students met and bonded over a little friendly competition, because up until 1977, it was used for mandatory physical education classes for all first years.
The gym has been home to countless students, thousands of athletes and has seen a lifetime of unforgettable plays but Joseph believes it is not the right home for Ryerson’s athletic program going forward.
“I see a facility that, in its time, was probably very exciting to play in,” said Joseph. “But its best days are past it.”
Staniscia has played over 150 basketball games for the Rams at Kerr Hall.
“I’ve bled all over that floor. I’ve got some lifelong scars inside [it]” said the captain of the basketball team.
The brightly lit two-toned hardwood has certainly taken a few knocks of its own, it has breathed in the sweat, blood, and tears of three generations of Ryerson students. Its best days may be in the past, but arguably its greatest moment may have been its last.
In his final home for the Rams, Staniscia anticipates the Gee-Gees inbound pass and lunges at it, forcing a steal. With it, he ensured the basketball team’s first appearance in the OUA final four in over a decade. The crowd was in pandemonium.
“When we played Ottawa, the whole team was cheering, running onto the floor and hugging each other … the crowd giving us a standing ovation,” he said. “That’s what I’ll remember the most.”