Story by Rick Vacek
Photos by Katie Severns
GCU News Bureau
The newest Big Thing on the Grand Canyon University campus is so massive, its aura is exceeded only by the outsized reactions of students seeing it for the first time.
The Canyon Activity Center – or CAC, as it’s called – quickly started filling up this week when the first intramural basketball games were played in the 10-court, 136,000-square-foot facility on Missouri Avenue between 29th Avenue and 30th Drive.
Just like that, the “you’ve got to see this” word spread, and Campus Recreation Director Matt Lamb enjoyed seeing the wide eyes and hearing the amazed reactions of students walking in.
“Most of them say, ‘This place is awesome’ or ‘This place is super big’ – that’s what’s said more than anything,” he said. “I heard some students say the other night, ‘This is going to be my new study spot.’ That’s cool because that’s what we wanted that space to create. It’s more than just a gym. It’s a hangout spot.”
Sophomore Joey Morones confirmed that notion when he said, “It’s nice to just come here for two or three hours, do your homework and then play basketball for an hour to unwind.”
But just as impressive as the size is the diversity of activities. On a typical evening this week, you could see at any one time …
- The club basketball team practicing
- A handful of intramural basketball games
- A couple of courts hosting pickup hoops
- Mixed martial arts
- Students socializing in the spacious waiting area, complete with tables and comfy sofas and chairs
- Students studying
- Students enjoying a snack from the full-service Lopes Mart located behind the front desk
- Students watching basketball games from the stands situated next to several courts
And all that was happening before the rest of the building’s features were in place. Still to come are the rock-climbing wall … and the weight room … and the ping-pong tables … and the equipment for badminton and pickleball … and the outdoor roller hockey rink. Heck, just going for a run around the full-length of the facility would be a workout all by itself.
The functionality doesn’t stop there.
When Thursday’s rain made baseball practice too soggy to be outside, the club team went into the CAC and used wiffle balls for its workout. And there’s more intramural variety to come: After the basketball playoffs and championships next week, the rest of the spring semester will feature volleyball and dodgeball, and the fall is expected to include soccer and badminton.
“That’s the biggest thing – just the magnitude of the number of things we can do,” Lamb said.
It doesn’t take much to transform a court into what you need. If you want to play pickup volleyball with your friends, for example, the net can be lowered from the ceiling in two or three minutes – the staff has been able to fulfill that request every night this week.
Every court has a scoreboard and a shot clock, so it’s ideal for tournaments. Indeed, the intramural participants were having so much fun the first night, they stayed afterward to get in some extra shooting and dunking.
“This is amazing for intramurals. It’s going to take it to the next level,” said one of those players, senior Devin Goodloe, who likened it to getting to play in a bigger gym in an AAU tournament as a child.
Goodloe was so eager to get a look at the CAC, he was there the first night it opened. After playing in intramurals in all four of his years at GCU, his only regret about the new facility is that he won’t be around to enjoy it longer.
And what, in his opinion, are its chances of becoming a hangout spot?
“Very high,” he said.
Junior Christian Messick took a moment from officiating an intramural basketball game to note that the courts are “super nice – they still have so much grip.” He said he usually works out once or twice a week, but the CAC figures to increase his regimen.
It’s even nice for students who have no desire to sweat.
Bijan Winford and Chyna Clark were enjoying a conversation at one of the high tables in the waiting area, far away from balls bouncing in their direction. But they also liked the fact that, if they wanted, they could get closer to the action without sitting on the floor or leaning against a wall.
“You can actually sit and watch the basketball games,” Clark said.
The sheer number of courts isn’t the only factor that makes the CAC so spacious. Lamb also appreciates the room between the north-south seven courts on one side and the three courts, pointing east-west, on the other.
“There’s plenty of space for people to just hang out when their game is done,” he said. “That walkway in the middle – oh man, that’s what I love as a building operator.”
The courts on the west side of the building are so far from the front desk, you barely can see the people using them.
“And you don’t hear them at all, which is incredible,” Lamb said. “The noise factor has been very impressive.”
The CAC’s location is particularly enticing for students who live in one of the four apartment buildings – Diamondback, Agave, Jerome and Cactus – that are within a block or less nearby. That’s where Morones, Goodloe and Messick all live. The new Colangelo College of Business Building is right across the street.
And imagine what will happen next fall when that area of campus will feature three more apartment-style units housing about 600 students apiece.
The CAC is available to any student or employee with a GCU identification card. The hours are 8 a.m. to 11 p.m. daily, and locker rooms with showers are available.
The peak usage times, so far, have been the evenings, but who knows how popular it will get once everything is done?
“I think more than anything it’s still a wow factor of students walking in and saying, ‘Wow, this is just incredible,’” Lamb said. “When the rock wall goes in, I think that will add another wow factor.”
Clearly, the new Big Thing is a big deal.
Contact Rick Vacek at (602) 639-8203 or [email protected].
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