Photos, story by Lt. James Herrera, AA/Public Information Officer
California Rehabilitation Center
A bit of history played out on the floor of a gymnasium recently as a team returned after nearly seven decades.
Warden Cynthia Y. Tampkins of the California Rehabilitation Center (CRC) hosted an exhibition basketball game in the historic Norconian hotel gymnasium.
The players were professional wheelchair athletes who played the entire game from custom designed wheelchairs. Many of the athletes lost the use of their limbs while serving in the military.
The event kicked off the Annual Wheelchair Basketball Tournament game competition in Norco with the over 50 inmate spectators who roared with excitement as the Rolling Devils fiercely competed with the Clippers.
On March 18, 1947, the first game between two organized teams took place in Norco – Birmingham vs. the Red Devils.
The Rolling Devils played last on these grounds in July 1947. The area would later become CRC.
The United States Naval Hospital of Norco utilized wheelchair basketball as therapy for spinal cord injuries until it closed in 1949. The hospital was the Navy’s designated spinal cord treatment center for the west coast.
Upon reopening in 1951, the Veterans Affairs (VA) was responsible for spinal trauma treatment and most paraplegics went to rehabilitation facilities such as Long Beach VA.
“Wheelchair basketball has a rich history with CRC that dates back to its time as a naval base, and we are excited to partner with the staff to bring it back to its roots,” said Norco City Council Member Kevin Bash.
History of California Rehabilitation Center
The building now housing California Rehabilitation Center opened in 1928 as the Lake Norconian Club, a luxury hotel. In December 1941, President F. D. Roosevelt turned the resort into a Naval hospital.
The hospital first closed in November 1949, reopened in 1950 during the Korean War, then closed again in June 1957. In March 1962, the federal government donated the facility to the state to use as a narcotics center.
To help ease overcrowding in the 1980s, CRC began housing felons as well as civil narcotic addicts, according to CDCR’s website.
Learn more about CRC at https://www.cdcr.ca.gov/Facilities_Locator/CRC.html