Coker College officials dedicated a new $12 million state-of-the-art athletic center in a ceremony Friday.
The Harris and Louise DeLoach Center is now the largest building on the private campus in Hartsville. The new center will host indoor athletics facilities and a fitness center for the school’s roughly 1,200 students.
College president Robert Wyatt said the school already knew its old gym was woefully inadequate when he took the post in 2010. “We’ve been playing in an outdated gym,” he told South Carolina Radio Network. “We had a seating capacity of about 400 and it was not air-conditioned.”
So the small school sought out donations, turning towards former Sonoco Corporation CEO and Chairman Harris DeLoach, a philanthropist who frequently donates to education efforts in the Hartsville area. Wyatt said DeLoach and his wife Louise’s commitment helped bring other donors forward, making the school’s current $21 million building campaign possible.
“I hope this building reflects our deep appreciation for the good work of students, faculty, staff, alumni and the administration of Coker College,” Harris DeLoach said during Friday’s ceremony. “More importantly, however, we want it to reflect how passionately we believe in the role that education plays in the success of the people of this community.
The new 71,000-square foot facility includes a 1,908-seat gymnasium, fitness rooms, cafe and dining area, offices, and classrooms.
“This facility allows for so many more things,” Wyatt said. “We’re not having to do Zumba classes in the same (classroom) where we’re also having instruction.”
He said the larger gymnasium will also be able to host events from the surrounding Hartsville community, offering a resource the area currently lacks.
Gov. Nikki Haley was among the dignitaries in attendance at Monday’s dedication. Afterwards, she awarded DeLoach with the Order of the Palmetto — South Carolina’s highest civilian honor — in recognition of his time leading Hartsville-based Sonoco and his philanthropy in the community.