Daily Pilot: Vanguard University remembers the Pit; Freed Center planned

Vanguard University’s 80-year-old gymnasium, known as “the Pit,” hosted hundreds of guests for the final time on Friday night.

Local residents, Vanguard administrators and student-athletes gathered to say goodbye to the gymnasium, paying tribute to the gym that the university plans to demolish this summer.

The Pit was first part of the Santa Ana Army Air Base before Vanguard, then called Southern California Bible College, moved to its current location in 1950. But through the master plan’s entitlement process with the city of Costa Mesa, it was determined that the Pit was not eligible for listing as a historic resource, due to loss of integrity from physical alterations throughout the decades.

“As a pillar of the community for many decades, countless memories for generations of students, coaches and area residents have been created at the Pit,” said Dr. Michael Beals, Vanguard University president, in a statement. “Few other pastimes foster such fortitude and personal strength as athletics, and it is an honor for our campus to have given back to Orange County by developing champions of character on and off the court. The legacy of the Pit will live on at the new Freed Center for Leadership and Service, the newest project in our 30-year campus master plan, where we will be able to continue to serve the student and local communities in even greater ways than ever before.”

The Freed Center, a three-story, 60,000-square-foot complex, was announced in January 2022 as Lions Arena. But it will be named in honor of the $10-million gift donated in March by the Freed family. It was the largest gift to the university in its 102-year history.

Construction on the Freed Center is expected to be completed in 2024. The gymnasium will seat close to 2,000 people, and the building will also house the university’s growing kinesiology academic program and five new classrooms.

The construction is part of Vanguard’s 30-year campus master plan, which was approved by the city of Costa Mesa in 2019.

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