The opening of the new, state of the art Harold Alfond Center in
1999 closed a memorable chapter in Monks basketball history. From
the early seventies until February of 1999, Bernard Currier
Gymnasium, more popularly known as "The Chamber of Horrors," served
as the Monks' home and provided the Royal Blue with an imposing
home court advantage.
When Chris Kiernan, the Monks' first coach and Director of Athletics, introduced men's basketball to the Standish campus back in 1970, the gym was nicknamed the "Monster Building." There were no bleachers, no locker rooms and no training room. The teams playing would use the bathrooms in the front of the building to change and for half time talks while the officials changed in the boiler room. It was not until the mid 1980's under the direction of President Anthony Santoro that a wing was added to the back of the building which provided locker rooms, a small training room, a weight room and coaches offices. Dean of Students Dick Bailey arranged for bleachers to be installed and from then on the crowds began to grow. Because of the proximity to the court, the fans would, in big games, literally stand on the edge of the court and the bleachers too, allowing little distance from the playing surface.
For a period of two years, Saint Joseph's was legislated against in terms of hosting play-off games unless the bottom row of seats was pushed in.
Students began to dress up as the Monk, the Executioner or, most notably, the young man who would don a dress, climb the girders and dive into the outstretched arms of the other fans. During this time, as the fans became more involved, the teams continued to improve.
From January 25th, 1990 to February 2nd, 1995, the Monks went undefeated at home, spanning a stretch of 50 contests. Local television outlets ran features on the "Chamber" and interviews centered on the bizarre turn of events which would turn games seemingly lost into exciting victories.
Sports Illustrated visited the "Chamber" and chronicled its personality in the December 16th, 1985 issue as did CBS Sports, Sportstime as well as NESN in 1999. Certainly a lot of publicity for a small building on a small campus!
"The Chamber of Horrors" was officially closed with a large gathering of former players and personalities on February 19th, 1999, the date of the last regular season game. On hand were Chris Kiernan, the founder of the program, Dick Bailey, who did so much to improve the entire athletic offering, and dozens of others who simply wished to be a part of the festivities.
The following week, on February 23rd, the Monks actually played one more contest in the friendly confines of the Currier Gymnasium - a first round Maine Athletic Conference playoff game versus Thomas College. The Royal Blue defeated the Terriers that historic night, 116-68.
This closed the book on the quaint little gym and truly marked "the end of an era." The records show that beginning in 1979 - when Head Coach Rick Simonds arrived at St. Joe's - until the "Chamber" closed 20 years later, the Monks posted an incredible 192-14 (.932) record at home.