From Drill Hall to Skating Drills

By Michele Reed -Oswego Alumni Association - Spring 2006, Vol. 32, NO. 1

Romney Field House began life as a drill hall at the Sampson United States Naval Training Station located on the eastern shore of Seneca Lake near Geneva. 
The training station was built in 1942 for a cost of $56 million, covering 2,535 acres of land. During World War II) it would house 411,429 Navy recruits. 
There were six large drill halls at the station, with a gymnasium, swimming pool, movable stage and motion picture equipment, according to the official Sampson Web site. 

Romney's distinctive curved wooden roof was actually a pre-fab construction. According to the Sampson Web site: "The contractor at Sampson adopted a speedy method of construction for the roofs of the six large drill halls. Each laminated wood arch -120- foot span with rise of 45 feet - arrived in three equal sections. Normally the two side sections were raised, then the crown section placed and spliced. At Sampson the arches were all matched and laid on the drill hall floor forming a nested pattern the length of the building. Attachment of permanent and temporary trusses stiffened each assembled arch, which was then raised by two traveling cranes, and set on its footings. For the last drill hall built the required arches were erected in one day? 

In 1960, the federal government sold the land and buildings at public auction. 

The late Gardner "Tully" Wells, chair of health, physical education and athletics at Oswego from 1959 to 1976, had a goal of instituting hockey as a team sport at Os- wego. But the team needed someplace to play. With Golden Romney, who preceded him as athletics chair, Wells traveled to Romulus and purchased one of the drill halls. 

The dismantled building was transported to campus by truckloads and reassembled south of Route 104. 

Opened in 1964, it is believed to be the first ice hockey rink in the SUNY system. 

The early Romney Field House was very different from the current model, with chain link fence instead of Plexiglas to protect spectators and an indoor track circling the ice rink. 

In the mid -1980s, the rink would see extensive renovation, with the old concrete removed and new surface installed, along with new refrigeration units. 

Over the years, Romney would see plenty of hockey action) including SUNYAC and NCAA tournament games. Fourteen All-Americans and at least two Olympians skated on its ice. Pete Sears '71, was a goalie on the 1972 silver medal-winning U.S. team and NHL Carolina Hurricanes star Erik Cole, who played his youth hockey and high school games at Romney, contributed strongly to the 2006 U.S. team. 

The rink was a great community resource as well. In addition to Cole, countless figure skaters and youth hockey players got their start at Romney. 

The future of the field house was uncertain at press time but one thing remains sure - Romney will hold a place in the memories of many Oswego alumni for years to come.