On Saturday, Feb. 10, Shenandoah University held a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the James R. Wilkins, Jr. Athletics & Events Center in the facility’s lobby and dedicated the playing court in memory of former Shenandoah University athletics director and head men’s basketball coach Dave Dutton and his wife, Kathy. The court dedication occurred between the men’s and women’s basketball games, on what was senior day for both teams.
“This is an exciting time for Shenandoah athletics,” said Director of Intercollegiate Athletics Bridget Lyons, Ph.D. “The Wilkins Athletic & Events Center is certainly one of the most impressive facilities in the Old Dominion Athletic Conference. It gives a great first impression for Shenandoah and certainly grabs the attention of the 60,000 cars that are traveling on Interstate 81 on a daily basis.”
It’s also a great recruiting tool, as nearly 500 student-athletes play at the Division III level on the university’s 21 men’s and women’s sports teams each year.
According to Shenandoah President Tracy Fitzsimmons, Ph.D., the 77,000-square-foot facility is the culmination of a 25-year dream to create a gathering place for the university and the regional community.
“This building is deeply symbolic of how far Shenandoah has come and in its trajectory,” said President Fitzsimmons. “We are reaching for the stars to provide a top-notch space for our student-athletes and the greater Winchester-Frederick County community.”
In addition to athletic events, the facility will accommodate major lectures, concerts and indoor graduation. It’s also where large events like lectures, music concerts and sit-down dinners can be held. This spring, the Shenandoah Apple Blossom Festival will hold events previously held at the Tolley Dental Tent on the Winchester Medical Center campus in the Tolley Dental Zone, located inside and immediately outside the Wilkins Athletics & Events Center.
With the opening of this facility, the university community also recognized the importance of a special couple who influenced the development of Shenandoah’s athletic programs.
The Duttons came to the university in 1988, when Dave Dutton was hired as the Hornets men’s basketball coach and athletic director. Kathy Dutton formed the Shenandoah Sensations, a dance team that performed at games.
Kathy Dutton died of cancer in 2001, at the age of 42. A month later, Dave Dutton died of a heart attack at the age of 45. The couple was credited for raising the both level of competition and community involvement in Shenandoah’s athletics program.
The Duttons’ four children Ryan Dutton, Adam Dutton, Aimee Dutton Phillips, and David Dutton were also on hand for the dedication ceremony. David, the youngest son, spoke at the court dedication on behalf of the family.
“To see the kind of impact they had in such a short time on so many people pushes me to want to be better, to want to do more and to want to be part of something bigger every day,” he said.
A new parking garage immediately north of Sprint Field at Shentel Stadium is set to be completed in early May 2018. The structure will be ready just in time for graduation.