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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

For student athletes, the UA puts academics first with the groundbreaking new academic center

UA+faculty%2C+athletes+and+donors+participate+in+the+ground+breaking+of+the+CATS.+Academic+Center+on+Feb.+12.+The+center+is+expected+to+be+completed+in+October+2016%2C+and+will+serve+the+academic+needs+of+the+UAs+student-athletes.
Sydney Richardson
UA faculty, athletes and donors participate in the ground breaking of the CATS. Academic Center on Feb. 12. The center is expected to be completed in October 2016, and will serve the academic needs of the UA’s student-athletes.

The CATS Academic Center, a new $7.25 million academic home for UA athletes, is set to be completed in October.

Greg Byrne, director of Arizona Athletics, said graduating student athletes is their top priority, and that a facility like this makes a total commitment to showing how important that is.

Commitment to an Athlete’s Total Success, or CATS, is an academic support program for UA student-athletes.

CATS academic director John Mosbach said the program currently has phenomenal resources, staffing, programs and systems in place, but will have the opportunity to implement the programs exactly how they want, with the space they want.

“I think that there’s maybe a percentage of students that we’re maybe not serving right now, just because we don’t have that individual study space or that quiet area where they can relax in between classes,” Mosbach said.

The new center, which will be 20,000 square feet spread over two stories, will include two computer labs, one tutorial area, study spaces, a classroom, individual study rooms and a casual area with booths or seating for student-athletes to hang out.

The $7.5 million project is funded by a leadership gift of $2.5 million from Wildcat alumni Andrew and Kirsten Braccia, a $1 million gift by Dr. David Lapan and his family, $500,000 from a previous donation made by Steve and Margot Kerr, an anonymous gift of $500,000, inlcuding other gifts and department funding.

Andrew Braccia said the UA left such a big imprint on him and his wife since it’s where they met and grew up as adults, and it’s an unbelievable opportunity for them to invest in something they’re passionate about.

There was a ground-breaking ceremony for the center Friday afternoon where all the donors were honored for their contributions.

At the ceremony, UA Student-Athlete Advisory Committee presidents Bonnie Brandon and Casey Skowron each spoke about what this new facility means to them.

“Having a place that’s going to be separate from McKale [Center] where we can really dedicate our focus to our academics is going to be pretty incredible,” said Brandon, a UA senior on the women’s swimming and diving team who is a six-time All-American and school record holder in the 200-yard back stroke and 1,650-yard free stroke.

Brandon recalled a time when she and some fellow athletes were studying and got locked in CATS, which is currently located in McKale Center and doesn’t have a bathroom.

She said she is excited for the improvements and appreciates all the support for student-athletes by donors and the UA.

Former Arizona kicker Casey Skowron said he has seen firsthand the immediate impact a new facility can have on a team, and that this new facility is huge for all student-athletes.

“This new facility is going to provide that jump to that goal of graduating student-athletes,” Skowron said. “It’s going to provide so many things that we just simply couldn’t do before, and its going to make an immediate impact for all of Arizona Athletics.”

The new center will be located across from McKale Center on Enke Drive in the outfield of the former Sancet Stadium.

Byrne said they aren’t tearing down the whole field, but only impacting the current third baseline, and the field will still be used for football practice.

He said that in terms of efficiency, the location is perfectly located right in between McKale Center and the Lowell-Stevens Football Facility, where so many students train, practice and eat, so students won’t have to spend a lot of time going back and forth.

Byrne, who has renovated and revamped facilities across campus, said depending on funding, they are hoping to fix Arizona Stadium next and maybe even construct an indoor stadium along the road. He added that although he’s grateful for their donors and fundraising staff, they still have a lot of needs moving forward.


Follow Chastity Laskey on Twitter.


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