DECKER: Facility Upgrades Long Overdue

One thought comes to mind when looking at IU Athletic Director Rick Greenspan's proposal for a $55 million athletic facility upgrade for the Bloomington campus. It's about time.

One thought comes to mind when looking at IU Athletic Director Rick Greenspan's proposal for a $55 million athletic facility upgrade for the Bloomington campus.

It's about time.

On Wednesday, Greenspan and a handful of other IU officials pitched the idea to the IU Board of Trustees for some long overdue improvements to Hoosier facilities. Included in the project is $25 million to enclose the north end of Memorial Stadium for offices, meeting rooms and a weight room; a new $15 million basketball practice facility; and a new baseball and softball complex that would be located just north of Assembly Hall and the IU Tennis Pavilion.

It's far from the only facility needs that the department is currently facing – other programs such as men's and women's tennis have also been neglected for far too long – but it's a big first step for a department that has done virtually nothing from a facility standpoint in the last 10 years ago.

Greenspan said the proposed project would be financed by $45 million in bonds that would be backed by money the department plans to receive from Big Ten Conference media rights, while the remaining $10 million would come from private donations.

The Board of Trustees is expected to vote on the idea Friday, but truth be told, what Greenspan is pitching isn't so much an idea as it is a necessity. While some might suggest that Indiana's facilities are steeped in tradition, they're also stuck in time, becoming woefully out-of-date compared to their Big Ten counterparts.

"Our athletic facilities are probably the worst in the Big Ten," IU president Adam Herbert said during IU's presentation to the Trustees. "It's my view that we simply must correct that fundamental deficiency."

Memorial Stadium was erected in 1960, and other than a remodeling of the coaches offices and meeting rooms in the mid-1980s, has had very little done to it in the last 45 years. The men's and women's basketball programs, meanwhile, have had to deal with scheduling conflicts over the years in Assembly Hall, which opened in 1972 and has also been virtually untouched over the years.

IU basketball coach Kelvin Sampson played a role in a series of facility upgrades during his time at Oklahoma, helping make the Sooner facilities some of the nation's best. That experience has made him very aware of the need for some improvements in what IU has to offer its student-athletes.

"We're in 2006, and…the kids we're recruiting today were born in 1990," Sampson said. "It's time. The tradition and the history of basketball at this university will always be there. Tradition never goes anywhere. But the facilities can be upgraded. How many major colleges share one court?

"The thing about a basketball player is he wants to be able to play basketball. He wants to have access to a facility whenever he would like to, 24/7, 365 days a year. This isn't just for the men, it's for the women. (IU women's basketball coach) Felisha Legette-Jack needs this. It's important for our women's program as they move forward."

IU football coach Terry Hoeppner, who attended the Trustees' meeting just one week after having brain surgery, emphasized the importance of the football stadium renovations as well.

"This is the type of facility the top programs in the Big Ten already have," Hoeppner said. "It's a wonderful commitment to the football program, and to Indiana University as a whole, that we are able to embark on this type of an aggressive campaign. This facility will allow us to compete on a truly elite level."

While some might think IU is simply partaking in a facility arms race with its Big Ten counterparts, IU's proposal isn't nearly as costly as some other schools. Illinois, for example, recently unveiled its plans for a $116 million renovation of its Memorial Stadium.

No, Greenspan and IU officials aren't overstepping their bounds with this vision – they're simply try to catch up so these programs are on an even playing field.

"IU does not need to invest in athletic facilities because everyone is doing it," Greenspan told the Trustees. "We need to invest because we are a major Division I athletic program and a first-class institution. The current facilities are inadequate compared to our peers and many schools in small conferences." Top Stories