Former Battle Creek Mayor Al Bobrofsky To Be Honored at New KCC Miller Building
KCC's new 10 million dollar gym has been open since the August 7th dedication, but the first basketball games will be played there on Friday November 9th. And a longtime KCC supporter who happened to referee the first game at the old gym in 1966 will be there.
Longtime area businessman and former Battle Creek mayor old Al Bobrofsky officiated games for years. The 85 year old will be on hand for a special event at the new facility's first home men's and women's basketball games at 5:20 p.m. Nov. 9, where he and his wife, Ann, will be joined by KCC President Mark O'Connell and KCC Athletic Director Tom Shaw in a presentation. He'll even receive a referee shirt.
"This is going to be emotional, with the striped shirt on," Bobrofsky said. "You guys don't want me to try to referee or anything. I'm going to stand in one spot and just watch them run."
A release from KCC points out that the new building also represents growth at KCC, something of which Bobrofsky has been a part. KCC President Mark O'Connell highlighted the role of the Battle Creek Tax Increment Finance Authority, for which Bobrofsky was board chairman, in helping establish the College's Regional Manufacturing Technology Center in Battle Creek's Fort Custer Industrial Park.
"I appreciate Al's continued service to the College and his support over the years," O'Connell said, "both as a Battle Creek mayor and TIFA board chairman."
Bobrofsky said he remembers the first game at KCC and that there was a dedication, but not too many of the details. He said he didn't know beforehand it was KCC's first basketball game, and that it was also the first time he signed a basketball.
Of course, one great thing about the game is that was a paying gig. In his mid-20s and pursuing a career in the graphics industry with Eastman Kodak, Bobrofsky was looking forward to getting to stay involved in sports, have some fun and earn some side money.
Bobrofsky said the rate for high school games was usually $7.50.
"You got the $12.50 for the varsity game," he said. "That was really great. At the junior colleges, you got $15 for a game. That was big time!"
The referee went on to officiate games for the next three decades, only stopping because he was getting involved in politics and didn't have time to divide between the two pursuits. Over those years, though, he saw a lot.
Bobrofsky is pretty sure he's the only referee to work a game where Earvin "Magic" Johnson played at three pre-NBA levels: junior varsity, varsity and at Michigan State University.
One time, by accident, Chuck Turner, who would go on to become a well-known Battle Creek Central High School basketball coach, elbowed Bobrofsky, taking out a tooth.
The civil rights tension in the mid-1960s even came to Bobrofsky's court. He remembered a varsity game at the time where police were concerned fights might break out. He said the referee crew was escorted down I-94 and into the building.
The game was moved to 4 p.m. and no spectators were allowed, except for the junior varsity teams.
In that same period, at another high school game, a riot broke out, Bobrofsky said, and some people were trying to break into the room where the referees had taken shelter. The crew was saved, he said, by one team's basketball coach and a few other people.
"That was very close," Bobrofsky said.
Recalling KCC games, of which Bobrofsky said he must have officiated dozens over the years, made him think about the old building and the new one. Among the gym, expanded classrooms, weight training facilities and other impressive features of the new Miller Building, it was the dedicated space for referees to change into their uniforms that caught his attention.
Bobrofsky is looking forward to the upcoming event, but hopes a lot of the focus stays on the athletes. "And it takes more than just the players," he said. "It takes the coaches and the administration of the school. And the people that are involved in it."