Each Ancient Classic Hall

The Kline Life/Sports Learning Center

The Kline Life/Sports Learning Center was opened on the campus of Dickinson College in the fall of 1980, and is still the current athletic center for the school.  The building is dedicated to honoring the memory of  Josiah and Bessie Kline; a plaque at the Kline Center reads, “ Their Life Long Interest in Education, Health, and Community Affairs is honored here through the generosity of the Josiah W. and Bessie H. Kline Foundation”.  The original plan to fund the building was part of a broader goal to raise ten million dollars over a decade, with half of the total to be raised in the first three years. Five million of the ten million dollar goal would go to the building of the new athletic center.

Dickinson purchased a one acre portion of land from Byers Lumber Yard for one hundred and thirty five thousand dollars, the site at Sixty Cherry Street would become the eventual site of the Kline Center. The College also had a lease-back agreement with Byers Lumber Yard to buy the rest of the land; this was later taken up and Dickinson currently owns all of this area.  The building itself was designed by architects Daniel F. Tully Associates Incorporated.  The official groundbreaking was on May 18th, 1979, and construction for the building was fundamentally completed during the summer of 1979, and was finished in half the time normally taken for a building of its size.  The construction process can be seen in various stages of completion through the many photographs taken of the construction of the Kline Center.

The building was opened by President Sam A. Banks for the 208th Convocation of the College in the fall of 1980.  The official dedication was held later in the autumn during Homecoming Weekend, with Rhodes Scholar, Senator, and professional basketball star Bill Bradley serving as the featured speaker.

Josiah Kline

Bessie Kline

Photographs Courtesy of Dickinson College Archives

Josiah and Bessie Kline were known for their generosity to others, as the aforementioned plaque in the entry way of the Kline Center commemorates.  Josiah was born at Lees Cross Roads in Cumberland County, Pennsylvania.  His father passed away while he was nine years old, and at the age of fourteen he moved to Harrisburg with his family.  When Josiah was seventeen he served as a page in the Pennsylvania State Legislature.  But Josiah’s true success in life would come in the real estate market and he made his start in real estate in 1911.  Until his death in 1961, Mr. Kline helped to build up Harrisburg, creating subdivisions, apartment complexes, and the State Capital's first shopping center, Kline Village, which opened in 1951.  Bessie Kline was raised in Harrisburg and in the early days of her marriage to Josiah would grow her own tomatoes and buy cracked eggs in order to save money.  The couple rarely traveled, lived modestly, and helped their neighbors whenever they could.  The Kline Foundation was established in 1961, after the death of Mr. Kline.  Since its establishment the foundation has given aid to Dickinson College, as well as Messiah, Gettysburg, and Elizabethtown colleges.  A wing of the Polyclinic Medical Center is dedicated to the Klines, through the foundation's establishment of the Kline Children’s Hospital and Eye Clinic.  Bessie Kline survived her husband to see the establishment and much of the work of the Kline Foundation, but passed away in 1979.  The Klines made an impact on all of Central Pennsylvania, through their generosity and the work of the Kline Foundation.  The Kline Life/Sports Learning Center serves as one way of honoring the memory of these two wonderful people.

The Kline Center is the third gymnasium to be built on Dickinson's campus.  Opened in 1885, "Old Gymnasium" was the College's first ever gymnasium.  It was replaced in 1929, when the Alumni Gymnasium was opened to better serve the Colleges athletic needs.  Media House, a former private dwelling now serving as housing for students, is now on the site where Old Gymnasium once stood.  Alumni Gymnasium served as the school's athletic center until the opening of the Kline Center in the fall of 1980; the building has now been extensively remodeled as the Weiss Center for the Arts.  Alumni Gymnasium was completely renovated on the inside, and the Weiss Center now serves as the home for Dickinson's art and music departments. The People and Places of Dickinson College, a photographic history published by the Dickinson College History Department contains more information on both Old Gymnasium and Alumni Gymnasium.  Much as the Old Gymnasium gave way to the Alumni Gymnasium, the transition from Alumni Gymnasium to the Kline Center was completed to suit the growing athletic needs of the College.  The Kline Center includes racquetball/handball, and squash courts in addition to the large gymnasium floor and pool.  Physical Education offices are also housed within the Kline Center making it more useful to the College than its predecessors.


Kline Center Gymnasium

Kline Center Pool
Photographs Courtesy of Dickinson College Archives

The Kline Center was featured in the January 1982 issue of Scholastic Coach magazine.  The article was written by Daniel F. Tully Associates, who were the architects that designed the building.  In the article all of aspects of the finished Kline Center are laid out.  The entire Kline Center building is 86,000 square feet, with 38,600 square feet of that taken up by the field house/gymnasium.  The floor for the main gymnasium and track is composed of a polyurethane synthetic floor covering. The Gymnasium portion of the building includes a two hundred meter track, a competition basketball court, seating for two thousand spectators, four multipurpose practice courts, divider nets, two ceiling mounted backstops, two pole vault areas, a long jump area, and a golf and batting cage.  The Kline Center also houses two courts for handball/racquetball, two squash courts, exercise and dance rooms, weight room, training room, locker rooms, several offices, and a 25 x 14 foot conference room with a kitchenette including a sink and refrigerator.  The pool in the Kline Center is twenty five yards long and eight lanes wide.  The pool has an attached 30 x 40 foot diving well, which is fourteen feet deep and includes two one meter diving boards, and one three meter diving board.  The viewing area above the pool can accommodate up to three hundred and fifty spectators.  Both the seating in the field house and the pool area can be retracted against the walls.  All of these features allow the Kline Center to be used for many activities at once, which was the main reason for it replacing Alumni Gymnasium.

The energy system for the building is a patented earth sink energy system, which relies on waste energy reclamation and utilization.  The earth sink energy system works along with rooftop solar energy collectors, and averages one third of the heating and lighting costs of a traditional energy system.  The sink is made up of a bed of stone underneath the field house floor which is saturated with circulating water serving as a thermal moderator.  This system stores excess heat when it is available and then returns the heat when the building needs it.  The stone and water working with the underlying earth have a very high heat storing capability.  During the summer, heat is stored in the sink twenty feet below ground, and during the winter the system is reversed providing inexpensive domestic hot water, heat for the pool, and space heating.

One of the defining features of the Kline Center is its roof.  The roof uses a very economical hyperbolic paraboloid system, which requires less volume and structural material than a traditional post and beam system.  The construction of the roof is made up of  a series of prefabricated wood shells supported by laminated wood beams and reinforced concrete abutments.  This system gives the roof a peak and valley appearance, rather than a more traditional flat roof.  It is covered by a single ply membrane of “Nordel” EPDM hydrocarbon rubber.  This covering is watertight, highly resistant to ozone and ultraviolet rays, and all types of weather conditions.

The Kline Center is the current athletic center for Dickinson College today in 1999.  With recent renovations and additions to the building it will probably remain a part of the Dickinson campus for many  years to come.  Some of the additions include a new fitness center, and a climbing wall, both of which make the multiple activity capabilities of the Kline Center even greater.  The new fitness center portion of the building now also includes the College Health Center, further consolidating the original idea to honor the Klines with a center of "life, sports, and learning" at Dickinson College.

Benjamin Erickson and Michael Pascuito


All Information taken from the Kline Center Drop File in The Dickinson College Archives

All Information on Josiah and Bessie Kline taken from Dedication of the Kline Life/Sports Learning Center, A Special Section of the Evening Sentinel, October 22, 1980

All Information on the physical make up of the Kline Center is taken from Scholastic Coach, Vol. 15, No.6. (Jan. 1982)

Note on the music heard, with the appropriate equipment:
John Williams' famous overture to the film Superman, released in the United States on 15 December 1978,  was popular in many forms throughout the period of the building of the Center and for sometime thereafter.

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