Howie's Activity Center: A "Home" for the Thunder

By Mark Janssen

“It’s our home.”

In a variety of phrases, that’s how folks at Manhattan Christian College are defining the brand spanking new Howie’s Activity Center, which today decorates the southeast corner of the Thunder’s campus at 1401 Laramie.

“Now that it’s a reality it’s all surreal,” said MCC President Kevin Ingram. “It’s been a discussion topic since the 1990s, but all the pieces to the puzzle never fell together until now. It’s just amazing that we’ve had athletic teams for close to 70 years, but never with a place that we could call our home.”

A home that carries the name of “Howie” in recognition of Howard Wilson, founder of Manhattan’s Howie’s Recycling and Trash, Inc., plus his wife Joann.

In reality, the Wilson name has been a fixture at Manhattan Christian College since its infant days with a total of 28 family members, which includes six who are currently enrolled meeting the MCC calling of “To live to the praise of His glory.”

“Every school needs a Wilson-type family that is committed to the beliefs of our school,” said Ingram. “You go over to K-State and see all the names on the buildings. A school the size of K-State needs its partners, and certainly a school of our size needs individuals like the Wilson family who believe in our mission.

It’s a “Mission” of educating, equipping and enriching Christian leaders.

Ingram firmly believes that the construction process of the $3.8 million Howie’s Activity Center is one of the reasons that enrollment is up by five percent for the 2017-18 fall semester.

“It’s always great to see construction on a campus, but a new building is only new for one year,” said Ingram. “Next year for new students it’s just going to be a building that has always been there. But for all of us it’s going to be a home where all of our students can go for activities, and for athletic competitions.”

To today’s MCC coaches, the HAC has them excited beyond words, and for good reason.

HAC includes: a solid oak basketball floor with six goals allowing for cross-court practices at the same time. Decorating the playing floor is “Manhattan Christian College” written on the sideline, and “Thunder” on each end of the floor.

HAC includes: bleacher seating for 301 Thunder fans.

HAC includes: carrying out the Thunder Navy and White colors, the birch walls are in part covered by a variety of blue sound boards.

HAC includes: three coaching offices, three locker rooms, areas for concessions, a weight room, a training room area, plus an area for storage.

“To have our own lockers with our names on it, and our numbers on it, may not sound like a big deal, but it is a big deal when you’ve never had it before,” said MCC volleyball coach Lauren Sanders. “The court is ours, and the locker room is ours. To have this as a place we can call home is so exciting and special.”

Women’s basketball coach Sarah Wenger added, “We’re finally going to feel an ownership of where we play our games. It’s so appealing to the eye … just beautiful. It’s the home we’ve never had.”

And that’s a fact. Since the doors to the first classes opened at then Manhattan Bible College on September 12, 1927, the school has never had a gymnasium of its own.

For that reason, no one appreciates the new facility more than Shawn Condra, who has been on the MCC campus since 1989, first as a student-athlete for five years and as athletics director and men’s basketball coach since 1994.

Chuckling, he said, “I’ve heard the talk about a new gym for many of those years, but now it really is a reality and a little hard to believe. Part of me has been like Charlie Brown expecting someone to pull it away from me at the last moment. I can’t wait for my first day in my office. Then it will really hit home that our programs have a home of their own.”

While today’s student-athletes, and those of the tomorrow years to come, will be the ones to benefit most by the spiffy new surroundings, Condra adds, “The former players I’ve talked to are really excited that we now have a home for our basketball teams. They are the ones who know what it was like not to have a home of our own.”

Those former men and women student-athletes are the ones who had to drive to the Manhattan City Auditorium for practices as early as 6 a.m., or, as late as 11:30 p.m. for a practice that would not end until the next morning.

While the MCC coaches have been the only ones to peek inside the doors to the Howie’s Activity Center, the formal ribbon cutting ceremony will take place at 9 a.m. on Thursday following the school’s Leadership Breakfast.

On Tuesday September 12, the HAC will host the 90th Anniversary Family Celebration at an Open House inside the arena.

The first sporting-type event will then take place on Friday with a volleyball doubleheader at 3 p.m. against Barclay, and a 7 p.m. match against Emmaus. In between will be a Tailgate Party around 5 p.m. at the Coffin Memorial Campus Center.

“This is what we wanted. It’s an ‘Activity Center’ and not strictly an athletic center. It’s for all our students for all the former students and friends of Manhattan Christian College,” said Ingram. “So many of us dreamed and prayed for this day to come true.

“I wouldn’t say that it completes our campus because we still have an ambition to build a new men’s residence hall, but it does complete the east side to our campus,” said Ingram. “It does help us to have more of a campus look and feel. It’s a home in so many ways that we’ve never had.”

MCC Scoreboard

9/23/2017 | Womens Soccer at Friends University | L, 10-0 
9/23/2017 | Womens Volleyball at Benedictine University | L, 0-3 
9/22/2017 | Womens Volleyball vs. Baptist Bible College | W, 3-0 
9/19/2017 | Mens Soccer at Central Christian College (Kan.) | L, 4-0 
9/18/2017 | Womens Soccer vs. Mid America Christian University | L, 9-0