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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    McKale expansions to ease practice burdens

    Construction outside McKale Center has been ongoing since June. The 17-foot hole will become a new practice facility for the basketball and volleyball teams, as well as a new diving well and an addition to the gymnastics facility. The facility will open in September 2008.
    Construction outside McKale Center has been ongoing since June. The 17-foot hole will become a new practice facility for the basketball and volleyball teams, as well as a new diving well and an addition to the gymnastics facility. The facility will open in September 2008.

    Arizona Athletics is buzzing about the athletics department’s new practice facility, thanks to a sizable financial donation from a former men’s basketball player and the prospect of a competitive new NCAA Division-I program.

    The $20 million project calls for new basketball, volleyball, swimming, diving and gymnastics practice facilities and in slated to open in September 2008.

    “”This is something from an Arizona standpoint, all sports are going to be impacted by this,”” said UA swimming head coach Frank Busch. “”Because our program has grown and done so well, we have so many interested athletes from all over the world that would like to be part of this.””

    The project will consist of three major parts: a training gym for both basketball and volleyball; a new pool large enough for a new diving well; and an expansion of the gymnastics training center. Lloyd Construction Co. began construction in June.

    “”What we want to have are first-class facilities that will fit our campus and the needs,”” said UA athletic director Jim Livengood. “”Everything that we’ve been doing is for necessity.””

    Architecturally, the facility will be submerged 17 feet into the ground and will replicate Bear Down Gym, said Joel Valdez, UA senior vice president of business affairs.

    Funding consists entirely of private donations and fundraising, topped by UA basketball alum Richard Jefferson’s recent $3.5 million pledge. Jefferson will have the naming rights to the new facility after donating what is believed to be the largest gift from a professional athlete to his former school.

    Four teams currently share McKale Center. Expansion, Livengood said, will solve practice-space limitations.

    “”We’re trying to maximize the minimum amount of space that we have,”” Livengood said. “”We’re not being shortsighted in regards to what we’re going to need long-term. We want our student athletes to compete to their best.””

    Gymnastics is the only team currently burdened by the construction. This fall, the Gymcats are forced to train off campus at private gymnastics facilities.

    “”It’s been somewhat tough rearranging the athletes’ schedules and trying to get everyone to train at the same time,”” said UA gymnastics head coach Bill Ryden. “”It’ll definitely be an interesting first semester.””

    With a space 30 feet longer than the Mary Roby Training Center, the Gymcats can redesign some of the pit areas and better distribute equipment, Ryden said. The addition will also allow for an NCAA regulation-sized vaulting runway.

    “”It’s turning what was a very nice facility into one of the best in the nation,”” he said.

    Plans for a new women’s water polo team have resurfaced with the project. Livengood plans on having a competing Division-I team by 2010.

    The facility’s spacious new pool could attract large national competitions along with top-notch recruits, Busch said.

    “”We’re going to have a beautiful complex that will meet the needs of all the programs that will use it,”” he said. “”Anything we can do that helps us in the realm of being competitive – this is going to help us a lot.””

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