Women's Basketball In New Home Sunday

On Sunday, the Alabama women's basketball team begins its home schedule. True, the Crimson Tide has played some 13 games in Coleman Coliseum this year. But next week, Alabama will play its first game in Foster Auditorium.

Foster Auditorium opened in 1939, but the facility that will be unveiled to the public when Alabama hosts Florida at 1 p.m. Sunday is far different from the building that was saved from the wrecking ball only because of history. Alabama Athletics Director Mal Moore recalled that when he came to Alabama in 1958 as a freshman football player, "This was the place to be." In addition to the site of men's basketball games, played by the likes of the famed Rocket 8 of the 1950s, it was the site of all major campus events, including things like dances.

It was also where registration of students took place each semester, and an infamous event at the beginning of the 1966 school year has had the serendipitous effect of providing women's basketball and volleyball with a magnificent new home. In 1966 Gov. George Wallace made his "stand in the schoolhouse door" in an attempt to preserve the institution of segregation as African-Americans James Hood and Vivian Malone attempted to register for classes. Because of that historical event, the building was preserved, even though in poor condition.

In 1968, Alabama opened Memorial Coliseum (now Coleman Coliseum) for men's basketball. Foster continued to be used for some women's sports (women's athletics was a separate department), including women's basketball 1971-81, volleyball 1974-95, and gymnastics 1975-84.

Afterwards, Foster became just part of intramural facilities. It was finally in such disrepair as to be not used. On April 5, 2005, Foster Auditorium was designated a National Historic Landmark.

When Wendell Hudson became head women's basketball coach a couple of years ago, he said that he would like to have Foster renovated for his sport.

Alabama's Moore has made Bama facilities second to none, and work at Foster is equal to other athletics facilities. It was a $16 million project for a building that will house women's basketball and volleyball office suites; the main arena with all new seating for 3,800; new court, scoreboards, video screens, and sports lighting; weight room; training room; four locker rooms; team lounges; and meeting rooms.

Davis Architects did the plan and renoivation and the addition of 11,000 square feet to the building was by WAR Construction. Moore said, "We are extremely proud of this project and what we accomplished. Back in my college days, Foster Auditorium was the place to be. A lot of times, when you are doing projects, you have a vision, but it always ends up turning out better. This building is no exception. Foster Auditorium holds great memories for a lot of people, and the athletic department is really proud to bring this building back to life."

Hudson said, "I have always said this is what this building should be. It will definitely help us with a home-court advantage. We want opposing teams to dislike coming here. Knowing the history of the building and what happened here, and to see it come into what it is today is something special. We are really looking forward to playing in here, and we are all really excited about Sunday."

The coach added, "This building has really superseded my expectations. I thought it would be a tough combination to keep with the historic feel and make all the necessary updates for it to be functional, but it was all done. I think it is great."

The renovation includes a plaza and clock tower at the North entrance.

When the new court was installed, careful measurements were made to preserve the famous ‘X' marking the spot from where George Linn made a shot from 84 feet, 11 inches on Jan. 4, 1955. For many years it was considered to be the longest field goal in Alabama basketball history. The shot came at the end of the first half in a 77-55 victory over North Carolina.

Then North Carolina Coach Frank McGuire, whose bench was just behind from where Linn made the shot, ran onto the court and marked the spot until someone could bring a marker. Later the metal ‘X' was installed.

"I made sure they had the measurements to put the ‘X' back in the exact position to mark George Linn's shot," Moore said.

Alabama will hold a public sale on Wednesday of 600 tickets to Sunday's 1 p.m. CST women's basketball's inaugural game in the newly renovated Foster Auditorium. Tickets will be $5 for adults and $3 for youths. All seats will be general admission.

For more information, call the Athletics Ticket Office at (205) 348-2262.

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