Lockhart Hall taken offline, no alternative provided


George Hurbert Lockhart Hall, constructed in 1939, experienced extensive renovations that were completed in January 2002. It is now a 47,553-square-foot brick complex where physical education activities and intramural sports are held.

Mason T. Smith, Sports and Intramurals Editor

George Hurbert Lockhart Hall, located at the north entrance of Alabama State University, is considered by many students as a ‘main staple’ for student recreation on the campus.
And while it is used for a variety of projects and events, the basketball court is used by hundreds of students who are not a part of the official basketball team.
COVID-19 forced students to return home in March 2020, and when many of them returned to the university in the fall, university administrators had turned the recreation center into a COVID-19 testing site and during the spring semester, both a testing and vaccination site.
Due to the extreme nature of the coronavirus, students eventually adjusted to the new reality. Their hopes turned toward the spring semester, where they had hopes of returning to a semester of normalcy, at least less restrictive.
Before COVID-19, Lockhart Hall was a haven for those who loved the game of basketball; on any given day, the gymnasium was filled with sounds of shoes squeaking, students yelling and the swishing of the basketball net as someone ‘knocked down’ a jump shot. There would be some days where 20 to 30 students would be assembled in Lockhart, all waiting for their turn to play.
Lockhart is not the crowned jewels of recreation centers, as the rims are often bent and sometimes the court could have a layer of dust on it.
At times, the court was not always accessible, as Lockhart is shared with the entire campus for recreation and classes, the volleyball team, occasionally the basketball team, or any random event the university has planned. It does not come without its flaws.
However, once Lockhart was taken off line for students, no other alternative was offered to students to use for recreational sports. Social distancing was strongly encouraged by the university, so no efforts were made to create other places for student recreation. An exterior court was not an option either.
After a year of lockdown, however, students are ready to interact socially and recreationally, understanding that they will have to use extreme caution.
In the city of Montgomery, many basketball courts are outdoors (with missing nets or double-rims that make it hard to shoot), on the campuses of other colleges, or because of COVID-19, the city has closed some of the community centers. This leaves the options outside of Alabama State virtually nonexistent.
Entire student body. Entire City. One court.
“It is the mainstream of campus,” said Student Activities and Intramurals Coordinator Fredrick Franklin. He primarily runs Lockhart gym, so he is a witness to the changes it has been through.
“They have the opportunity for exercise and hang out with each other … I won’t say it’s the heartbeat of campus, but it’s where a lot of the kids who are sports and activity-minded hang out,” Franklin said.
These sentiments were supported by Tyler Boxley, a junior at Alabama State who frequently visited the gymnasium.
“When Lockhart was open, it allowed students who love basketball to become closer,” he said. “Because everybody bonded and made new friends every day. Now that it’s closed due to COVID, new students barely know who plays basketball at ASU.”
Franklin agrees with the student bonding that takes place in Lockhart.
“The newer kids don’t know what ASU provides,” Franklin said when asked about the continuation of Lockhart’s closing.
“So they can’t really ask [about the gym reopening], but I know the kids that have been here, the sophomores, juniors and some of the seniors, have asked me ‘when the gym is going to open?’ As far as having to go off campus, I’ve seen a lot of students at the outdoor court by Church’s Chicken during the daytime. I’ve heard they’ve been going to (Maxwell Airforce) base, the YMCAs, if they have transportation to reach those places.”
The efforts of the students to try and find another place to play and Franklin’s statements were echoed by Ja’Vonta Price, a junior who was a regular at Lockhart before it closed.
“I’ve heard students play at Church’s, get on base if they have or know someone with an ID,” Price said. “Students have also tried to go into gyms on other campuses in Montgomery, like Huntingdon or Auburn University Montgomery, but of course those courts are really reserved for students of those schools … I’ve even heard students plan to just buy a basketball goal and place it somewhere. That’s how bad students want to play.”
When Franklin was asked about Lockhart’s reopening for student recreation, he was not sure.
“I don’t know,” Franklin said candidly. “I understand the vaccination site is important … but I haven’t spoken to anyone in administration. That’s a good question, and I don’t have an answer.”
Right now, there is no plan to re-open Lockhart, but students do feel that more can be done to aid this issue, and Boxley is one of them.
“I feel like if there’s a chance of Lockhart opening again, I’m down for it,” Boxley said, “because if the basketball team can play together, the students should be able to play if they take a test or get a temperature check before entering.”