Ohio Wesleyan University today announced a $4 million project to fully renovate Branch Rickey Arena, home of the Battling Bishop wrestling, volleyball, and men’s and women’s basketball teams.
The six-month project, beginning this week, will improve the 44-year-old arena with new flooring, bleachers, scoreboards with statistics panels, lights, sound system, air conditioning, and more.
The project is fully funded with contributions from alumni, parents, and friends, including lead gifts from 1955 OWU graduate and life trustee Douglas H. Dittrick, a pioneer in the cable television industry, and from First Commonwealth Bank.
In recognition of Ohio Wesleyan’s partnership with First Commonwealth, the new scoreboards will include the bank’s name and logo. First Commonwealth also supports local high school students seeking to attend Ohio Wesleyan with an endowed scholarship program.
“We’re so excited to be able to renovate Branch Rickey Arena to support our student-athletes and everyone who uses it,” said President Rock Jones, Ph.D. “I’m grateful to Doug Dittrick, First Commonwealth Bank, and all of the donors who have helped to make this happen.”
In addition to improving the home court, the top-to-bottom renovation will reconfigure the arena’s main lobby to create a welcoming entry that highlights current Bishops, OWU champions, and the legacy of building namesake Branch Rickey. A 1904 Ohio Wesleyan graduate, Rickey broke Major League Baseball’s color barrier when he signed Jackie Robinson in the 1940s.
Other renovations will include converting a nearby racquetball court into a concession stand and ticket window, refurbishing all public restrooms, and relocating the athletic training room from the third floor to the first.
On the second floor, the renovation will create an All-American lounge with touchscreens, couches, chairs, and gathering spaces that promote connection and camaraderie.
On the third floor, the north locker room will be renovated to house the wrestling team during its season, and the current training space will be transformed into a locker room for coaches and game officials.
Finally, Jones said, the entire space will be branded “so there’s no mistaking that Branch Rickey Arena is the Home of the Battling Bishops.”
Athletics Director Doug Zipp said everyone is looking forward to seeing the finished building and getting back to competing.
“We are full steam ahead,” Zipp said. “We are all very excited for this amazing project and the transformation of Branch Rickey Arena into a bright, new venue. We look forward to watching the Bishops battle here and to welcoming the community for sports camps, awards ceremonies, and other special events.”
Gifts to support the renovation are part of Ohio Wesleyan’s Connect Today, Create Tomorrow comprehensive campaign. The seven-year campaign, scheduled to conclude in June 2021, has received nearly $213.5 million in gifts and commitments to date.
Learn more about OWU athletics at www.battlingbishops.com, more about renting campus venues at www.owu.edu/reserve, and more about the comprehensive campaign and giving to the university at www.owu.edu/campaign.
OWU Sports Information contributed to this report.