The Earl C. Sams Center (left) became the modern-day William H. Bell Athletic Center.
The William H. Bell Athletic Center is the hub of all physical activity on campus. Students, faculty, and staff gather there to watch sports games, take physical education classes, and ensure that their physical fitness keeps pace with their mental fitness.
Built in 1963 as the Earl C. Sams Center, this $1,350,000 physical education building was built as part of James Laurie’s ambitious master plan that kept the campus under constant construction during the 1960s, along with structures such as Murchison Tower and Mabee Dining Hall.
The Sams Center would eventually be gutted, improved, and re-opened as the Bell Athletic Center facility in October 1992, after a $15 million, two-year renovation. The new facility was renamed to honor longtime Trinity Trustee William H. “Bill” Bell, who worked with President Ron Calgaard in the late 1980s and ’90s to reform the campus with new scholarships, staff, and facilities such as the athletic center that bears his name.
With its evolving names, the Bell Athletic Center has become a way for Trinity to show its appreciation for the contributions of past Trustees, alumni, and members of the Trinity community. In 2017, the Sams Gymnasium, home to the Tiger basketball and volleyball teams, was rebranded as the Ron and Genie Calgaard Gymnasium. Ron Calgaard, University president from 1979-99, remains a staunch supporter of Trinity athletics to date and is a fixture at sporting events held there.
The Bell Athletic Center includes a two-story fitness center open to all students and faculty, complete with platforms, machines, treadmills, and more. The main fitness center was built after completion of the Stumberg Sports Performance Center, which replaced the previous weight room and is equipped with sleek new equipment tailored especially for student-athletes.
The Trinity community awaited these renovations, which lasted from 2016 to 2018, with great anticipation. Exercisers had to step over ceiling tiles and lumber to access the weight room and work out to the sound of heavy machinery. While the Stumberg Center was under construction and the University was phasing out older equipment, only one lonely weightlifting platform was available. It sat on the bottom floor beneath the stairwell in what some students called the dungeon.
Now, in addition to student workout facilities, Bell Athletic Center is home to two gymnasiums and a state-of-the-art natatorium, where the university hosts its home meets and tournaments. The Bell Athletic Center is also home to the victory bell, and a 1,000-pound statue of LeeRoy in front of the building.