After 42 years, Long Island played its final game at the Schwartz Athletic Center - formally known as the Brooklyn Paramount Theatre -- on Thursday evening, defeating Robert Morris, 82-58. The Blackbirds will move into the state-of-the-art Athletic, Recreation and Wellness Center in October, 2005.
Many former players, coaches and administrators were on hand for the event, including a special moment at halftime as former basketball standout Albie Grant posthumously became the first Blackbird to have his number retired. Grant, who played on the Brooklyn campus from 1963-66, will have his number 13 jersey hanging in the new building.
The Schwartz Center's ornate and hallowed interior, which features a cozy 1,000-seat gymnasium, took its shape from the former Brooklyn Paramount Theatre, a glittering showcase for the stars of stage and screen and the celluloid epics from Hollywood from 1928-1962. Such showbiz immortals as Mae West, Bing Crosby, Eddie Cantor, Rudy Vallee, Little Richard, Fred Waring and Ginger Rogers appeared on its stage. When the Paramount closed its doors, workmen began transforming the orchestra section into the basketball court. The lights rose again on November 30, 1963 as the men's squad recorded a memorable 85-56 victory over Pace College.
Fond memories of the Brooklyn Paramount Theatre and the uniqueness of the facility have led to a number of nostalgic pieces being written in recent weeks. One of the best is by New York Daily News writer Sean Brennan, who realizes "the reminders of a glorious past surround you as you enter the Brooklyn Paramount's grand main room". On the College Insider website, former Marist coach Dave Magarity - who was involved in a number of memorable games in one of the most unique environments in college basketball - offered the following: "I can't tell you how many times I found myself looking around wondering when the Phantom of the Opera was going to reveal himself." Current Long Island head coach Jim Ferry told Newsday's John Boell, "I can't tell you how many times a week that people just walk into the gym during practice and start snapping pictures." Finally, Kyle Whelliston of the Mid-Majority website reminds everyone that "the Paramount was where the borough's residents went to be entertained."