If these walls could talk, they would tell stories of edge-of-your-seat wins and losses, drenched-with-sweat practices, the thump-and-blare of the pep band, and the heard-for-miles cheers of generations of Huskies.
While history has been kind to Hillcrest’s Art Hughes Gymnasium, the time has come to build new memories in a facility that’s being constructed for the generations to come.
A pack of former players, some of whom played on the school’s first championship-winning team in 1968, attended the Tuesday, Feb. 12, 2019 boys hoops game against Kearns High. They were honored at the outset of the game for contributing to the strength of the home of the Huskies and mark the last home game played by the boys team before the more-than-50-year-old gym is torn down to make way for the new Hillcrest High, which will be built in phases over the next three years.
Construction crews are already working on the site of the school, which is being built with proceeds from a $283 million bond approved by voters in November 2018. It’s one of four construction projects now being done in Canyons District, including a rebuild of Brighton High, a major renovation at Alta High, and a classroom-wing addition at Corner Canyon High.
At the region game, the former players, who are brothers and friends, shook hands, hugged and re-lived the buzzer-beating shots, off-the-board rebounds, and the bonds built during the hours of practice and game-time play. They talked about the days gone by, when the entire community came to watch the Huskies hit the hardwood.
“It was a lot of fun to play here,” said Ron Hatch, the 6-foot 4-inch center of the title-holding 1968 squad. “Both sides of the court would be full (of cheering fans.)”
But there was a lot less to do in those days, he says, no Netflix, no Internet, no video games. “People came out to watch basketball. It was different then. It was what everybody did.”
“The game was different then, too,” he said. “You didn’t worry about who was going to get the ball. You just went out and played. It was so much fun.”
George Hughes, the son of the coach after whom the gym is named, recalled the good times had in the gymnasium throughout the years. “When I first entered his gym, I was just in awe,” he said. At the time, the Huskies’ gym was new, shiny, and ready to welcome the community.
Hughes said his father, who died in 2003, was immensely proud to coach the Huskies, and led the school to state championships, including the school’s first hoops title.
George Hughes said he was thrilled to attend the school while his dad was at the hoops helm, and held up his golden “H” that he earned for his letterman’s jacket. “I was proud to have gone to this school, to have played for this school.”
On Tuesday night, the stands were full of cheering students, parents, friends and boosters. The cheer squad jumped and flipped, and the Hillcrest drill team hip-hopped through a half-time routine. While the Huskies did not emerge victorious, they played as strong as their legacy.
On Friday, Feb. 15, the girls’ hoops team will take the floor at 7 p.m. At the sound of the game-ending whistle, an era will end. And the score will be the last one tallied in the stadium where champions have been made.