On Monday, May 13, officials from Bexar County and the University of the Incarnate Word (UIW) officially opened the UIW Brainpower Center for Fencing and International Sports at a ribbon cutting celebration. Located on the campus of St. Anthony Catholic High School (SACHS), which is owned and operated by UIW, the center is the premiere fencing facility in the region.
Over 150 guests attended the event which included a blessing, formal ribbon cutting, reception and a fencing demonstration performed by Courtney and Kelley Hurley, bronze team medal winners at the 2012 Summer Olympics held in London. Mark Papich, UIW athletics director; Dr. Louis Agnese, UIW president; Sr. Kathleen Coughlin, CCVI, UIW vice president of institutional advancement; Paul Elizondo, Bexar County commissioner; and Nelson Wolf, Bexar County judge, spoke at the event. Among the special guests in attendance were former fencing Olympians Velizar Iliev, Dr. Robert Beck, Dr. Risto Hurme and Leslie Bleamaster.
“This facility compliments our city’s long history of training world class and Olympic athletes,” Agnese told the crowd. “It’ll provide a much needed venue not only for local fencing programs, but other sports as well. It’s also a good example of the synergy that can take place between the public and private sectors, and the high schools and university.”
The UIW Brainpower Center for Fencing and International Sports was made possible by a $2 million contribution from the Bexar County Venue Tax with UIW providing an additional $2 million to complete the building of the facility.
“Bexar County is glad to participate in the establishment of yet one more venue for competitive sports, such as fencing, that allows our youth to hone their skills and compete on a national and international level,” Elizondo said.
Uniquely, the center is an internationally constructed facility with Italian fencing reels and electronic components that work with the fencing’s scoring system and fencing strips imported from France.
The 18,000 square-foot facility will serve as the home for a UIW fencing team and affiliated high schools and local club teams. The complex features eight fencing strips, practice strips, an armory, a gymnasium with basketball and volleyball capabilities, spectator and exercise areas, and an international sports area for table tennis and badminton.
Most profoundly, the center allows UIW to develop an NCAA fencing program with the official shift to Division I. Further, it serves as a training facility for fencing athletes, yet is also capable of hosting regional and national competitions; provides facilities for a U.S. Fencing Association club for the community; and supports community efforts such as Dreams for Youth, which provides out-of-school youth sports programs with a special emphasis on disadvantaged youth in underserved communities.
The UIW Brainpower Center for Fencing and International Sports places an important foothold in the arena of non-traditional sports in Texas and further broadens UIW’s reach globally considering the international appeal of Olympic sports.
Former fencing Olympian and Chief Executive Officer at USA Pentathlon Rob Stull, who attended the fencing center’s grand opening, said he commended UIW for being an institution that is supporting sports at the international and Olympic level by establishing an impending scholarship fencing program in San Antonio.