It was a historic night for Lonoke Jackrabbits athletics Tuesday night.
Lonoke hosted Pulaski Robinson in the first basketball games at the 2,000-seat Gina Cox Center, which opened in August in time for volleyball.
The Lady Jackrabbits played hard but lost to the Lady Senators 47-43 while the Jackrabbits beat the Senators 66-55 in the boys game.
“it’s just a different atmosphere,” said Lonoke athletic director Nathan Morris, who also coached the Lady Jackrabbits basketball team. “It’s not the beating on the bleachers in the old gym. The music is going and the sound system is so much better. I think the buzz is there.”
Morris said he thinks the attendance will increase as the season continues.
“I’ve seen faces I haven’t seen at the old gym in four years,” Morris said. “If we keep retaining those people, we’ll keep getting a few more. It’s just exciting.”
Lonoke superintendent Suzanne Bailey sang the “Star-Spangled Banner” while the Lonoke High School ROTC color guard presented the colors.
The lights were lowered for the national anthem and the introduction of the starting lineups.
“The pregame was fun for our kids,” Morris said. “It’s a great place.”
Lonoke boys coach Dean Campbell had similar sentiments.
“The community has been unbelievable to vote something like this in,” he said, referring to the millage vote in 2011. “There is no doubt [that it’s the crown jewel]. Everyone should be extremely proud of it.”
Campbell said Lonoke wants to host the Class 4A state tournament this year.
“People from all over the state would get to come here and see it,” he said. “Once we do that, people will be wanting to get into our Christmas tournament.”
The Gina Cox Center is named in honor of Gina Cox Wiertelak. She, along with her husband Jim, donated $1 million toward the construction of the 2,000-seat facility, which opened in August for volleyball season. Gina is a 1977 graduate of Lonoke High School. She was a member of the 1977 state championship basketball team at Lonoke.