Howard Payne University Yellow Jackets fans paused Saturday afternoon between the women’s and men’s games to dedicate a new basketball floor and other improvements at the Brownwood Coliseum.

“In 1964, when I started broadcasting Howard Payne games, it was the first year the coliseum was in business,” Dallas Huston, master of ceremonies, said. “Nobody else had a facility like this. I never dreamed it would be 43 years before any improvements were made. It’s been a long time coming, but this is first class, state of the art, and I’m so excited.”

The improvements include the TexasBank basketball court plus new scoreboards, goals and other enhancements that meet current NCAA requirements.

“Words fail us in expressing gratitude to TexasBank for making this possible,” HPU President Dr. Lanny Hall said. “When (men’s basketball coach Charles) Pattillo told me we needed a new floor when I came here, I didn’t know how we would do it. But I didn’t fully understand the depth and breadth of the love of one man for Howard Payne University and its basketball program. I can’t thank you enough for your bank’s leadership gift. So today, Norman Tinkler is our man of the hour.”

Tinkler, vice chairman of the board and CEO of TexasBank, is a 1975 graduate of Howard Payne where he played basketball for the Yellow Jackets.

“It’s really an honor to see that a dream has come true, because this has been a dream for many years,” Tinkler said. “I can’t tell you how much Coach Pattillo has meant to me… A lot of people are responsible for all the championships and championship banners hanging here, but these are just material things. The real championship begins when you pass through those doors. I want to honor Howard Payne University and to honor Coach. That’s why I stand before you today.”

Hall recognized members of the TexasBank board and staff, as well as Dr Pepper Bottlers of Brownwood and Charles Lockwood, who is also on the bank’s board. Others who helped make the enhancements possible with individual gifts include Mr. and Mrs. Rick Akins, Norman R. Bennett, Mr. and Mrs. Dale Fisher, Ann Garms, Dr. and Mrs. Richard Jackson, Chris Kielsmeier, Dr. and Mrs. Don Newbury, Mr. and Mrs. Charles Pattillo and Mr. and Mrs. C. Norman Tinkler.

Hall also expressed his appreciation for the “wonderful relationship” the university has with the City of Brownwood, which owns the coliseum.

“This is a special day not only in the life of Howard Payne Uiversity, but in the life of the community of Brownwood and Brown County,” HPU Athletic Director Mike Jones said. “This has been a dream for a long time for a lot of coaches.”

Jones said the dream began to become a reality when the NCAA announced floors used in last spring’s championship games would be available. The floor at the coliseum was used in Newark, N.J., in March for the Georgetown-University of North Carolina playoff.

“With the approval of the administration and the board of trustees, we began to pursue this floor,” Jones said. “The generosity of TexasBank, Dr Pepper and others made it a reality. This is now one of the best facilities in Division III. It’s already the site of the largest attendance in Division III last March.”

HPU women’s basketball coach Chris Kielsmeier, whose team had just defeated University of the Ozarks 88-24 in its first outing as the No. 1 team in the nation, expressed his appreciation. “This place is awesome,” he said. “Everything about it makes this one of the best facilities in the nation.”

Meia Daniels, HPU senior from Fort Worth and last year’s American Southwest Conference player of the year, praised the facility but added, “The fans top it off and make it a great place to play. God bless you.”

Pattillo, whose team later beat Ozarks 86-78, said the improvements were needed because of changes to the rules that affected the men’s three-point arc and a requirement that scoreboards show tenths of seconds.

“We are truly grateful,” Pattillo said. “Along with you fans and the student body, we truly appreciate what this facility has become.”

“This means a lot to all of us,” senior Yellow Jacket Lee Scott from Snyder said. “This is the best floor I’ve ever played on in my life.”

HPU Student Government Association President Laura Busha offered the students thanks “for making this a special day.”

The portable floor that the men’s and women’s basketball teams have been playing on for decades is actually 10 years older than the coliseum itself, university officials said. As a result of countless basketball games played on it, the floor has had to be sanded and finished multiple times through the years to the point at which further refurbishment was not possible. The floor now meets 2007 NCAA standards and is expected to have a lifetime of at least 50 years.