(Circa 1961-1962) John Clarke (president of Ricks College), being conscious of the hard winters in Rexburg, began to dream, in his newborn hope, of a covered fieldhouse for athletic events and other purposes. As things were, the last football games of the season often had to be played in the snow, and spring came so late that the track and baseball teams had difficulty preparing early enough to meet teams that came from lower elevations. John mentioned the idea of a covered track and playing field to Dr. (Ernest) Wilkinson (commissisoner of education for the Church), who at first did not respond favorably, but John persisted, reminding Wilkinson of it every chance he got.
In the meantime, John was out looking for someone to support his case. In Salt Lake City were two young architects who had been students under R. Buckminster Fuller, who invented the geodesic dome. They were trying to establish a business and get some credentials, so they said to John, 'We'll do some doodling for you, and we won't charge you a dime.' Elated, John took the matter to Wilkinson, saying, 'It won't cost anything to let these fellows fool around with this a little bit.'
Finally Wilkinson gave his permission for them to go ahead, which they did. The first design looked like a big sombrero. The central part would cover the athletic field and was high enough that there was no danger of kicking a football into it. Around the brim of the sombrero were offices, swimming pools, wrestling and dressing rooms, and other rooms necessary to an athletic facility.
With Wilkinson's permission, John, in company with Daniel Hess, his administrative assistant, and Sam Brewster (in charge of physical facilities at Ricks), flew to South Dakota where a building built on the principles of the geodesic dome had already been erected. The trip was funded by the Behlen company, headquartered in Nebraska. That company was promoting the sale of the building. The men spent a full day looking over the building, which was used for rodeos and farm displays, and then flew home. After all of that, Wilkinson said that he didn't think he could sell the idea of a covered fieldhouse to the board of education, so the matter was dropped without going any further." (pgs. 62-63 from MAKE GOOD WHERE YOU ARE, a biography of John L. Clarke by Robert Worrell.)
Ground for the construction of the Hart Building was broken Oct. 12, 1967, with President John L. Clarke conducting. Construction was completed on Nov. 1, 1969, and the building was dedicated by Elder Delbert L. Stapley of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. Ceremonies were conducted by then President Henry B. Eyring. President Eyring spoke of two pioneers (John W. Hart and Mark Austin) at the dual ceremony which included the dedication of the Austin Building. Dr. Kenneth H. Beesley, associate commissioner of education for the Church also spoke at the building dedication. The building was named after John W. Hart, former bishop of the Menan ward and member of the Rigby Stake High Council. He was president of the Rigby stake for 24 years and chairman of the Ricks Board of Education from 1927 until 1935.
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