$1 million gift moves renovations of Alumni Gym forward

Retired faculty member and husband help fund seating improvements
Diane Cornell

Chuck and Isabel Baker of Princeton have made a $1 million gift to renovate Alumni Gym and improve the game-day experience for Bronc fans.

The sports-loving couple’s funds will be used for the replacement and expansion of chair back seating to one entire side of the court and, on the opposite side, the installation of new bleachers and a row of courtside seats. In addition, walkway tunnels will be added behind both seating sections to improve the flow into and out of the gym and create better sightlines for those already seated.

The work, which began at the end of April, builds upon other gifts in the recent past, such as the addition of a practice facility featuring the Jason Thompson Practice Court, new flooring, new lighting and sound system, a video board and upgraded locker rooms, team meeting and film rooms, and new coaches’ offices.

The University is continuing its campaign to raise additional funds for other improvements to the facility. While past upgrades were necessary for the athletic programs that use the facility, the current renovations are deemed important for supporters of those programs.

“This is all for the fans,” says Rider President Gregory G. Dell’Omo of the current project, part of an ongoing effort of athletic improvements. “We look forward to the resumption of competition, and when that happens, we will be ready with these extraordinary new surroundings.”

The Bakers are long-time Rider men’s basketball season ticket holders and devoted supporters of the Basketball Booster Club. Chuck Baker has had a long and successful career in the pharmaceutical industry. Dr. Isabel Baker is a retired assistant professor of college reading at Rider and a reading strategist who now works as a tutor in the University’s Academic Student Success Center.

“We know that these improvements will make significant and positive changes to the inside of Alumni Gym,” says Dr. Baker. “We can’t wait until we can all be back together again to cheer on our student-athletes.”

Future plans for the arena call for a new and more spacious lobby, new ticketing and concession areas, additional bathrooms, an additional expanded seating section along the baseline and arena corners, an entertainment suite, and a center-hung scoreboard with digital display giving the facility an arena setting. Also planned are the expansion of the sports medicine area and the addition of a new strength and conditioning center located behind the practice facility.

These improvements continue to be funded through contributions to the Campaign for Rider Athletics. Jason Thompson ’08, the first Rider basketball player to play in the NBA, is the Campaign’s honorary chair. Thompson is leading the charge to raise additional funds for athletic facility improvements. Athletic champions Wayne Canastra ’72 and Keith DiGrazio ’84 are assisting in the effort.

The announcement of the gift comes at the close of a successful season for several Rider teams and student-athletes. Among the highlights: Stella Johnson became the first Rider women's basketball player to be drafted into the WNBA, men’s swimming and diving captured its ninth straight MAAC championship, and women’s indoor track and field finished first in its conference for the first time in 13 years.

Those wishing to support the renovation of Alumni Gym or other athletics initiatives can contact Associate Director of Major Gifts Matt Mastrianni at 609-896-5291 or [email protected].