ANNAPOLIS, MD — The U.S. Naval Academy honored one of its pioneers with the groundbreaking of the Wesley Brown Field House, a 140,000-square-foot athletic facility named for the Academy's first African American graduate, Lt. Cmdr. Wesley A. Brown. Brown was the sixth African American to enter the Naval Academy, and in 1949, became the Academy's first African American graduate.

“This world is changing very quickly,” said Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Mike Mullen at the groundbreaking ceremony. “But when you think about change with respect to diversity in our Navy and in our nation and you hearken back to the time when Wesley came to the Naval Academy, what a heroic step, what a courageous move, and what a long lasting and historic contribution he made.”

The new field house will contain facilities for physical education, varsity and intramural athletics, club sports and personal fitness. It will also offer a centralized medical facility within proximity to outdoor fields.

Athletics play a key role in the mission of the U.S. Naval Academy to develop midshipmen morally, mentally and physically, said U.S. Naval Academy superintendent Vice Adm. Rodney P. Rempt.

The $45-million construction contract will take about two years to complete.