UVI Sports and Fitness Center named for sports and community hero VI Elridge Blake

UVI President David Hall presents former UVI coach and alumnus Elridge W. Blake with a plaque during the UVI name change and sign unveiling ceremony. (photo sent)

The Sports and Fitness Center at the Orville E. Kean Campus of the University of the Virgin Islands (UVI) was named in honor of Elridge Blake, the virgin islander whose extraordinary athletic and athletic achievements span over decades and across continents.

The 34th Virgin Islands Legislature acted in 2021 to recognize and commend Blake for his “outstanding achievements in sport and contributions to the people of the Virgin Islands” by naming the facility in his honor. Today, friends, family, alumni and government officials gathered to honor Blake at the official ceremony and sign unveiling.

In addition to Blake’s impressive athletic career, the legislation also recognized his service as “an outstanding public servant and a role model for children in our community” and commended him as an ambassador for the territory through his sporting achievements around the world.

Born to humble beginnings in St. Thomas in 1947, Blake’s academic and athletic prowess was on display at Charlotte Amalie High School, where he won a plethora of awards and accolades, including the Student Award who has contributed the most to the community.

Blake continued to excel academically and enjoyed tremendous athletic success in basketball, track and baseball during his college career at Fisk University in Nashville, Tennessee. Drafted by the Chicago Cubs in 1968, he was the first Virgin Islander to be drafted while still in college, but died while attending training camp in order to complete his education. He graduated with honors with a Bachelor of Science in Health and Physical Education.

A man of integrity, Blake overcame the allure of playing major league baseball, choosing instead to return to St. Thomas and fulfill the obligation he felt to those who had supported and believed in him. “My first year at Fisk was paid for with money I borrowed from the Virgin Islands government. The stipulation of the loan was that you had to go home and give a year,” he said.

The outstanding athlete and coach once shared his views on sport in an interview: “Sport is for a time, but education is for a lifetime,” he said. he declares.

From 1974 to 2005, Blake served as a lecturer, instructor, and assistant professor of physical education at UVI, eventually earning a Master of Arts in Educational Administration and Supervision in 1989.

“UVI understands and values ​​the complex synergies of physical, emotional, spiritual, and intellectual pursuit in developing well-rounded students, athletes, and citizens. Coach Blake’s legacy of pouring down on our student-athletes both on and off the field speaks for itself, and this institution is enriched by his lasting contributions,” said UVI President, Dr David Hall.

While in college, Blake was instrumental in the development of UVI’s athletic program. He is credited with launching the Buccaneers athletic program in 1976 with the formation of men’s and women’s volleyball teams, for which he served as head coach and won local and international tournaments over two decades. He was also an assistant women’s basketball coach.

His UVI teaching career included teaching a myriad of subjects including swimming, softball, soccer, basketball, volleyball, badminton, racquetball, tennis, bowling, fitness, tennis, athletics, Calypsocise, stunts, tumbling, table tennis and other table games.

At the naming ceremony, Senator Dwayne DeGraff, the lead sponsor of Bill 8510, said, “I wanted the younger generation to know that this is a historic event. Mr. Blake is second to none. I thank my colleagues and Governor Albert Bryan, Jr. for their support of the legislation.

Speaking on behalf of the 34th Legislature, Senate Deputy Speaker Novelle Francis, Jr. said, “I hope that everyone who sees his name honored on this building will be inspired to learn more about its history and his contribution.”

Miss UVI Tamia Grant, Sen. Novelle Francis, Jr., Sen. Dwayne DeGraff, Ina Freeman (sister of Elridge Blake), former UVI coach and alumnus Elridge W. Blake, Sen. Milton Potter, UVI Alumnus and UVI Board Trustee Reginald Vigilant and UVI President David Hall participate in the unveiling of the sign at UVI. (photo submitted)

Small Business Administration Inspector General and UVI alumnus Hanibal “Mike” Ware said, “To sit here now admiring the magnificent building we now have while looking back and paying homage to the original, is not just a testament to you, Chief, but to our beloved institution.Our leadership has propelled us forward while honoring a true hero while he is still here to receive that honor.

“Even though I was not one of his athletes, he marked my life,” recalls Lieutenant Governor Tregenza Roach. When you meet him, you see this person who believes in fitness and wellness as a way of life, encouraging you to find a way to be in this community and continue contributing to it in any way you can. Roach continued, “I’m so honored to be able to stand here and tell you how much you mean to us and to the community.”

During her tenure at UVI, Blake created a mentorship program for local high school students. His community service extended to the British Virgin Islands, where he held basketball, volleyball and health clinics in Tortola. In 2001, Blake was inducted into the University of the Virgin Islands Hall of Fame.

The 64,000 square foot Elridge Wilburn Blake Sports and Fitness Center can accommodate up to 3,000 people and houses classrooms and a VIP sky box/PR space. It is the first sports facility of its type in the Caribbean. The center has become home to UVI’s Paradise Jam, an annual NCAA Division I basketball tournament held in November during the Thanksgiving holiday.

For more information, contact [email protected]

Printable, PDF and email version