New hoops practice facility announced

Arizona basketball will have a slightly different look in a season or two. The University announced that a new basketball practice facility will be built and could be ready for the 2007-08 season .

The new facility, which has not been designed, is part of a $15 million dollar upgrade to the athletic facilities that also includes improvements to Sancet Stadium, the Hillenbrand Aquatic Center, the softball stadium and the track and field facility. Already over $6 million has been earned and athletic director Jim Livengood suggested that another sizeable portion of the funds have just not been announced.

The planned facility would be built on the mall, just north of the swimming facility and would be for practices only. A plan to have the volleyball team play their home games in the facility were scrapped, mostly due to expensive zoning upgrades that they would have to make if fans were to be housed inside.

The plan is to have the facility as the primary practice courts for the men's and women's basketball teams. It would also be used by the volleyball team for practice. The building would house two full courts and have twice the space that the floor of McKale does. Partitions would make it able to have two teams practice at one time without the sound of the other practice interrupting what is happening on the other court. That is one reason Bear Down Gym is not used by the teams.

The teams' offices, locker rooms and training facilities would still be housed at McKale. Early plans are for the new facility will not have any locker rooms or shower facilities. The players would travel from McKale to the new center via some sort of tunnel system.

One of the courts will be named for former women's start Shawntinice Polk who passed away last month. Cole and Jeannie Davis donated a million dollars to the project, in part, because they were inspired by Polk. Neither of the Davis' graduated from the University and they only moved to Tucson a few years ago.

The new facility will cost between $6-9 million dollars. An architect has not been selected but Livengood said that one could be selected in the next few days. He said the plan was for ground to be broken by the end of the school year.

Olson, who, along with his wife Christine, donated the first $250,000 for the project, said that the primary reason for building the facility is to help all of the teams schedule adequate practice times.

"It is a much needed facility," said Olson. "This will go a long way towards helping all of the programs that use McKale Center by alleviating many of the scheduling conflicts. I'm happy that we're going to get this done."

Both Olson and Joan Bonvicini noted that the facility will help in recruiting. A closed facility will also keep the public and undesired presences away from practices. Olson and his staff closed practices from the media and public after an agent made illegal contact with Jason Terry during the 1998 season.

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