By Zoe DeFazio, Asst. Arts and Entertainment Editor
Draddy Gymnasium is a staple of Manhattan College’s campus. In it lives “the sixth borough.”
The 2,345-seat multi-purpose arena sits at the highest point of Manhattan College’s campus next to Walsh Plaza.
Draddy Gymnasium gets its name from Manhattan College alum, Vincent De Paul Draddy. Draddy was captain of Manhattan College’s football team before the termination of the football program in 1942.
According to The New York Times, Draddy was an innovative individual who gathered much of his wealth from manufacturing and distributing Lacoste knitwear and sportswear.
“Draddy’s biggest hit was the Lacoste knit shirt, originally for men. In 1950 a friend of his, Billy Talbert, the tennis player, asked Mr. Draddy to look at some shirts designed by Rene Lacoste, the one-time French tennis star. Lacoste had been nicknamed ”the crocodile,” and his shirts bore an embroidered likeness on the left breast,” The New York Times obituary written in 1990 after Draddy’s death stated.
Amy Surak, director of archives and special collections, dived into the history of the construction of Draddy Gymnasium.
“When our current campus was built 100 years ago, we built the Alumni Hall, which was the gym … almost immediately, we outgrew it. Obviously, even the basketball court was not regulated. We had a pool in the basement because we have a swim team and it was great. And then almost immediately, the Olympic size pools were the ones that were then regulated. And so then our pool was too small. And anyway, so we wanted to have a gym for years and years and years,” Surak said.
Draddy Gymnasium wasn’t constructed until the late 1970s after much turmoil. New York City was facing many financial issues that caused bankruptcy in many industries. The NYC fiscal crisis of the 1970s left many businesses with little to turn to. In the summer of 1977, the city of New York Housing and Development Administration’s Department of Buildings gave the green light to start the process of constructing the large athletic facility.
“Initially Manhattan College did a campaign in 1976 to start really soliciting money to build it [Draddy Gymnasium]. The 70s were a rough time. There were many fiscal issues with the college in particular. But, the Bronx was burning and we were almost practically bankrupt as a city. So things were kind of going to hell. Things got pushed back a little bit. So finally, by 1978, they were able to break ground,” continued Surack.
The construction process was tumultuous. Manhattan College had started to create the foundation of the gymnasium by putting up steel bars to indicate what the structure would look like. After a few weeks of the steel structures being placed, a large boisterous storm had blown all the steel away. More damage had been done than progress in the making of Draddy Gymnasium.
“It was, it was mortifying, and kind of embarrassing, because for an engineering school, right, but also because we’ve taken so long to have this done finally, and it got stalled. And then it finally happens and then boom, falls over,” said Surak.
The building finally opened its doors in 1978 replacing Alumni Hall for most athletic purposes. The gymnasium is equipped with a 200-meter flat track, batting cages, a volleyball court and three full-sized basketball courts.
Draddy Gymnasium isn’t just for sports, but also for television entertainment.
Draddy Gymnasium has been a host to many external organizations. According to NYCGO and GoJaspers, Draddy has been the home of The Mayor’s Cup Wheelchair Basketball Tournament in 2008, 2010 and 2012. It was also featured on The Cosby Show for the episode titled “Back To The Track, Jack” in 1984.
Today, Draddy Gymnasium hosts men’s and women’s basketball and is practice grounds for all 19 of Manhattan College’s sports teams.