Lehman College basketball has been on the road for a long time. As a result of not one, but two devastating storms in as many years, the school’s basketball teams have been forced to play home games on the road. They haven’t had the privilege of home court advantage since the 2010-2011 season. Finally, basketball has returned to the Apex.
Olusequn Williams was shocked when he saw the condition of the Lehman College Apex Center’s gymnasium after it was damaged from Hurricane Irene.
“I didn’t know what happened; it looked damaged and stuff,” said Williams.
Williams, a freshman for the Lehman Lightning men’s basketball team, is a graduate of nearby DeWitt Clinton High School. Like many athletes and other regular visitors to the college, Williams was used to seeing the Apex Athletic facility in pristine shape, including the shiny floors of its gymnasium.
This all changed in late August of 2011, when water from Hurricane Irene seeped into the Apex, causing its gym floor to expand and eventually buckle.
“The entire wood floor was scrapped,” recalled Dr. Martin Zwiren, the college’s athletic director. “It wasn’t as if we could cut out part of it and save it. The entire gym floor had to be taken out and redone.”
The repairs cost the college roughly $1.2 million, according to Rene Rotolo, assistant vice president for campus planning and facilities.
The damage left the school’s students, as well as outside members of the Apex facility, without use of the main gymnasium. The toll was particularly acute on the college’s basketball teams.
Both the men’s and women’s teams had to play their entire 2011-12 seasons — a total of about 25 games each — on the road.
The teams also started the 2012-13 season with no home court due to superstorm Sandy. Lehman was designated as an evacuation center and housed about 130 people for two weeks after the storm, according to Joseph Tirella, a college spokesman.