For 10 years, it wasn't much of a gymnasium at all.
On the otherwise pristine Cosumnes River College campus in south Sacramento, an unfinished structure that was supposed to be a gift to the school and double as the Kings' practice facility stood as a shield-your-eyes shame.
It was a roofless, hulking mess with 45-foot-high concrete walls, supported by rusting beams. CRC faculty called it "Stonehenge." Coaches eager to use it said it resembled a bombed-out building from another part of the world.
Jack rabbits raced through, hiding behind weeds within the fenced-in grounds.
"There was even a tree growing in there that was 10 feet tall I'm not kidding," said Jeanne Calamar, a former CRC women's basketball coach still on staff as an athletic administrator. "We never thought it'd get finished, but here it is now."
The gym was completed in 2000, some 14 years after CRC, the Kings and the Sacramento Sports Association held a joint news conference on a grassy spot where midcourt is now. Dwindling finances stalled construction.
Today, the 48,000-square-foot, 3,000-seat gym serves as a beacon of campus pride as it was awarded the bid as host site for this weekend's California Community College State Championships, as well as next year's.
Construction also continues on campus for two new soccer fields, and new baseball and softball fields, all within sight of the gym and made possible from bond-measure money.
CRC has hosted two community college state soccer championships in the past four years. The goal is to host more high school and community college state events when the fields are completed in the fall.
The facilities add luster to CRC, which opened in 1970 surrounded by acres of orchards, open fields, cattle and critters. For years, CRC was the "other school" behind much older Sacramento City, American River and Sierra.
The CRC gym was a critical project, athletic staffers say, to keep the school relative and competitive. Recruiting high school athletes without facilities is a brutal chore. A school would never bid to host a state championship without quality facilities.
The gym construction intrigued people for years. In 1997, five years before taking over as the Yuba College men's basketball coach, Doug Cornelius wrote a paper for his master's degree at Saint Mary's College in Moraga on the anxiety and complexities of such a project. Now, he wants a storybook ending at CRC.
"Never thought we'd wind up playing in it in the state final four, though," said Cornelius, whose 49ers play today in a semifinal against Antelope Valley of Lancaster. "That gym is great for this region."
Former longtime CRC men's coach Jim Clark surely would have appreciated the campus buzz this weekend. He coached from 1972 to 2003, mentoring with zeal until his death in 2003. He coached briefly in the new building after nearly 30 years packed into the old bandbox of a gym that seats barely 250.
Clark and Calamar were best friends. Like kids with mischief in mind, they would sneak through holes in the fences late at night during gym construction to snap photos and daydream.
"One time, we didn't close up the hole in the fence, and at school the next day, administrators were talking about it," Calamar recalled. "Jim and I looked at each other and said, 'No idea!' Jim would be so proud of this weekend. This was his baby, his dream."
The gym bears Clark's name and his daughters Deedria Clark and Dawn Clark-Lamb remain fixtures. They were scorekeepers for their dad for decades and still tally field goals, free throws and timeouts for CRC games, in his honor. The sisters are spectators this weekend.
"I'm sure Dad is looking down, seeing all this, and he's ecstatic," Deedria said. "It was a long time coming. He would really love this."