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Although the story of the G.B. Hodge Center gymnasium in many ways could begin with Dr. Joe Bowman, the fourth-year head coach of the Spartan Rifles, in reality, the story begins with the vision of the building's namesake. Nearly as soon as ground broke on the first building at USC Upstate, the administration building, Dr. Hodge started the groundwork for the Nursing-Physical Education Building. After years of letter writing and seeking funding from any and all avenues, Hodge secured the funding for the building, and by the time the Spartanburg County Commission for Higher Education surprised Hodge by dedicating the building in his honor, Hodge was already working towards the building of Upstate's library.
Hodge's tireless effort in the early years of the University made it seem only appropriate that the athletic department's first facility was named in his honor.
The USC Spartanburg gymnasium may have never been a wonder, but from the first game on Jan. 10, 1973 onward, it was clear that it was home.
On Feb. 25, 1972, just 11 days after the groundbreaking of the Hodge Center, the Spartan Rifles held a funeral for the Evans Junior High gymnasium before their game with Clemson-Sumter. The Spartanburg Herald-Journal noted, "The passing on was mourned by none."
Bowman said of the new Hodge Center, which was set to hold 2,145 spectators and feature a Uni-Turf synthetic court, "It should make all the difference in the world. The biggest thing it will provide is a pride and an identity for the school itself. It should help our crowds since it will be closer affiliated with campus."
By early January, the gymnasium was ready and Bowman and the Spartan Rifles were excited. "Our team thinks this is just great," Bowman said. "It's just like Christmas, the kids are so proud of it. It's so wonderful having your own locker room and lockers. It makes a tremendous difference."
From those humble beginnings, which started with a 109-92 loss to Isothermal Community College on Jan. 11, 1973, the Hodge Center, in a manner befitting the building's namesake, became home to a team that hustled so much that by the '80s, they were known as the Runnin' Rifles, and that has won more than 70 percent of its games at the cozy gym.