Generous Gift Names Basketball Arena In New Colby Athletic Complex

Architect’s rendering of the basketball arena in Colby’s all-new athletic complex slated to open in 2020.

A generous gift of $8.3 million from a Colby family will name the basketball arena for the planned new athletic complex and provide important funds to accelerate the pace of progress at the College. The commitment celebrates the connections made at the College and the important role of competitive varsity athletics in preparing Colby students for life success.

When the complex opens in 2020, generations of Colby athletes—and members of the wider community—will be able to enjoy the new arena, thanks to a gift from Trustee Jim Crook ’78, P’11 and Andrea Crook P’11. Recognizing the importance of current-use funds in Colby’s ability to make timely strategic investments, the couple has included $500,000 for Colby’s annual fund.

“The Crooks know from firsthand experience the important lessons learned from being part of teams that prevail in the most competitive environments,” said Colby President David A. Greene, referring to Jim Crook’s basketball team in the 1970s, their daughter Lexi’s lacrosse team, which consistently made the NCAA Sweet 16, and their family’s professional success. “We want our students to learn what it takes to be successful in academics and athletics and throughout their lives in whatever their chosen field. Jim and Andrea share our commitment to reigniting the winning spirit and tradition at Colby.”

Colby’s plans for an all-new athletic complex, which will be among the best in Division III athletics, will give Colby an edge as it recruits the most talented students—just as the existing Harold Alfond Athletic Center did in the 1970s when Mr. Crook was considering where to attend. “My generation of athletes walked into that athletic complex and we’d never seen anything like it,” he said. He went on to play several successful seasons for legendary coaches Dick Whitmore and John “Swisher” Mitchell. “I learned more from losing as a result of knowing what it’s like to win,” he said, “and I want Colby’s current and future students to have a competitive experience like the one Lexi and I enjoyed.”

The Crooks’ daughter Lexi ’11 was a two-sport varsity athlete and a captain of Colby women’s lacrosse (CWL). “The friendships Lexi developed and the lessons she learned as an athlete at Colby brought us back to Jim’s days on the court at Colby,” said Andrea Crook. “Her wonderful experience informed our decision to become more engaged with the College and to make a significant investment in Colby athletics.”

The new gift is not the first time that Jim Crook has celebrated his connection with Colby and Colby athletics. He was 13 years old when he first met Dick Whitmore at basketball camp in Casco, Maine. “I came to Colby because of Whit,” Crook has said. He played for Whitmore and Swisher at Colby, developed lifelong relationships with both, and for decades saw the effect these coaches and mentors had on generations of Colby athletes.

When Whitmore announced his retirement, Crook and other basketball alumni—Chris Vickers ’87, P’21, Matt Hancock ’90, P’19, and Chad Higgins ’97—created a legacy fund named for Whitmore and supported by basketball alumni and others. This spring Crook spearheaded an effort to raise funds from fellow alumni to endow the assistant basketball coach position in the name of Swisher. The endowed position was celebrated at a Colby event this April.

“The Crooks’ latest gift is part of an incredible legacy that has included bringing together alumni from all generations to give back to the programs and teams that helped make them who they are,” said Vice President for College and Student Advancement Dan Lugo. “Jim and Andrea Crook represent philanthropy at its finest.”

Work has already begun on the $200-million, 350,000-square-foot complex. Three new fields for competition and practice are underway and site preparation will begin soon on the complex, which will be located on Campus Drive west of the existing athletic facility. The new complex will also welcome many teams and groups from the Waterville community and across Maine. Local basketball leagues and teams who currently play in Colby’s gymnasium will have access to the new arena as well.

Colby has a notable and historic commitment to a healthy and active community, and the new complex will enhance that mission. Nearly 80 percent of Colby students participate in some kind of organized physical fitness activities, and varsity competition is an important part of many students’ lives.