Oct. 22, 2012
NOTRE DAME, Ind. - In order to provide a championship-caliber facility that properly befits one of the University's finest athletics programs, the Notre Dame athletics department and the Fighting Irish fencing program was pleased to host the official dedication of the Castellan Family Fencing Center Saturday morning in the Joyce Center.
The center is a gift of Patrick and Concetta Castellan; Patrick is a 1968 graduate of Notre Dame, and their sons Matthew and Christopher both fenced during their time at the University. Matthew fenced from 2001-04, and Christopher participated in the program from 2004-05.
Senior deputy athletics director Missy Conboy ('82, basketball) served as emcee for the dedication and welcome a host of current and former Notre Dame fencing student-athletes, coaches, staff members and supporters to the landmark event for the Fighting Irish program. Among those in attendance were former head coaches Mike DeCicco and Yves Auriol, and former fencing administrator Brian Boulac.
After a blessing by University president Rev. John I. Jenkins, C.S.C ('76, '78), Notre Dame athletics director Jack Swarbrick ('76) took to the podium to laud the fencing program for its historic achievements and discuss what the team means in the overall makeup of the athletics department and the University as a whole.
"You have to have a good enough program to make the investment that's reflected here today, and this isn't a good program - this is a spectacular program," Swarbrick said. "It's a proof of concept that you can be great students and great student-athletes at the same time. So it's very much a representative program for this University."
Notre Dame fencing head coach Janusz Bednarski followed Swarbrick and spoke passionately about how the new facility will benefit his program.
"This decision to build a proper environment for our team, our sport, and our fencing program will have a great impact on the life of our student-athletes," Bednarski said. "Other teams will certainly be jealous when they enter this building."
Bednarski has fostered a unmatched learning environment during his 11 seasons as head coach, and senior sabreist Marta Stepien commented on the team's camaraderie when she approached the podium to represent her teammates.
"Whether you're a fencer, family member, coach or administrator, you are a part of our fencing family," Stepien said. "We know every family needs a place to call home, and we could not be more excited or thankful to call this gym ours."
After Stepien's remarks, Patrick Castellan spoke about the some of the logistical issues the fencing teams faced in their former facilities. The fencing strips were not regulation size, which Castellan compared to the Notre Dame basketball team practicing in only a half court with a non-regulation hoop. What's more, the fencing locker rooms consisted of a cage in the Joyce Center boiler room, with only a wall of towels separating the men's and women's areas.
Clearly, a change had to be made.
"It was our opinion that the areas provided at that time did not rise to the level the program deserved and needed," Patrick Castellan said. "Today, words cannot describe how delighted we are to be here in this extraordinary facility and that the fencing team now has the home it deserves."
Castellan then helped introduce his son, Matt, who added to Stepien's comments about the tight-knit group that makes up the Notre Dame fencing team.
"We're bound together by a deep, shared love for this institution, this sport and each other," Matt Castellan said. "We're all sons and daughters of Notre Dame, but more specifically, the sons and daughters of Notre Dame fencing. We are family."
Following the formal program of speakers, dedication attendees enjoyed an open house and tours of the new space.
The new facility, which features locker rooms, a team room and conference room, coaches' offices, manager's office and an armory, is located in the north dome of the Joyce Athletic Convocation Center, the former location of the Joyce Center ice arena.
"Having our own space to keep things organized is going to cut down on a lot of issues we've had to deal with in the past," junior sabreist Danielle Guilfoyle said. This space is ours and the regulation fencing strips will make a huge difference in practice."
Throughout the new arena are several displays that honor Notre Dame's instrumental fencers who have helped elevate the program into the nation's most elite. The displays highlight not only the 279 All-Americans (21 of whom were four-time All-Americans), but also the 13 different Olympians (most notably, two-time gold-medalist Mariel Zagunis) and several NCAA Championship fencers and coaches.
Among the displays are two trophy cases that highlight the eight national championships the team has won. Both cases are located directly outside of the main entrance into the Castellan Family Fencing Center.