30th anniversary of Dedmon Center opening

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Taylor Brock


This year marks the 30 year anniversary of the Dedmon Center opening.  On Dec. 9, 1981 the Dedmon Center was dedicated and Rowdy Red premiered as the mascot.

The athletic building is named after Radford University’s fourth president, Dr. Donald Dedmon.

According to Radford University: Investing in Lifetimes, Dr. Dedmon “championed the cause in the Virginia legislature, sought the donation of land and convinced the state highway department to build a bridge to the facility.” Norfolk and Western Railway donated the land in which the Dedmon Center was constructed on.

At the time of construction, the Dedmon Center was a state-of-the-art facility becoming “only the tenth permanent structure constructed in the United States with an air-supported roof” and “was the first such building in the country with parallel support cables,” according to Radford University: Investing in Lifetimes.

Construction began in 1979 on the center that housed a gym for basketball and volleyball, a 1/6 mile indoor jogging track, five racquetball courts, and a weight training room.

The Dedmon Center was built because the athletic department was interested in making RU into a Division I university.  According to Radford University: Investing in Lifetimes, Chuck Taylor, the athletic director at the time the Dedmon center was under construction said, “We had to have the facility to make the transition and attract the caliber of athlete we needed.”  In 1984, Radford University formally switched from a Division II to a Division I athletic program.

Although it’s gone through changes over the years since it’s initial construction, the Dedmon Center continues to be a fixture at Radford University. In 1987, a swimming pool was added.  Most recently, the Dedmon Center underwent a multi-million dollar renovation that “makes it one of the premiere collegiate athletic facilities in the Big South Conference and Mid-Atlantic region,” according to the athletic department’s website. Some major renovations included replacing the roof with an upgraded fabric structure, a new weight room, and a Learning Enhancement Center for academic advising of student-athletes.

Just as the Dedmon Center has undergone many changes over the years, so has RU’s mascot. Premiering at the opening of the Dedmon Center, Rowdy Red, a red muppet figure, became the official mascot until it was replaced by the current mascot, the Highlander in 1996.

A student group called the Radford Rowdies who were very spirited during athletic games inspired Rowdy Red’s name. The original Rowdy Red was played by Paul Hightower, a student who worked in the athletic department. The red muppet mascot made appearances at every home athletic event and local elementary schools.