Practice Gym Funding Plan Taking Shape

The first shovel-load of dirt has yet to be turned. Yet Mississippi State officials can look a year into the future and see a gleaming new structure adjoining Humphrey Coliseum: the long-sought Bulldog practice gym. "If everything went perfectly we would like to have it for next basketball season," says associate A.D. Scott Stricklin.

The biggest ‘if' involved in achieving this ambitious schedule and giving Mississippi State mens and womens basketball squads a proprietary practice facility is, of course, finalizing the funding. And this directly impacts, well, everything. Much has already been done here in 2009 by athletic director Greg Byrne and staff in pushing the process forward, beginning with leasing the grounds in front of The Hump for athletic department use. Last month MSU was allowed to let out the actual bids.

"On the construction side I think everything is lined up," reports Stricklin. "The drawings are done, we have construction documents. But we just have to cross a couple of hurdles on the financing part and we should be ready to go."

Mississippi State has secured significant funding from a variety of sources in recent months, and Stricklin said today that the Bulldog Club could be close to announcing "a couple of major gifts" on the project in coming days. "One of which will be a naming opportunity for the facility itself," he added. This does not mean all the cash is in-hand though.

"All the pledges we have are paid over a period of years," Stricklin explained. "And different pledges come in at different times of the calendar. The commitments have been made over a period of years, which we can get it done that way." The key is setting a secure schedule for these pledge payments over the years to come, as well as ‘rounding out' the overall financing with, probably, a bond offering. This is nothing unusual for major capital projects at State, with the recent examples of both Davis Wade Stadium's expansion early in the decade and the more recent Palmeiro Center construction. Though both projects were initiated by major gifts sizable additional funding was required for the complete packages.

Thus, Stricklin said, "Right now we're trying to make sure we have the best approach for us financially. Duncan McKenzie (senior associate A.D.) is working on that. And we are still trying to secure other donors." Indeed, having other State supporters step forward now and guarantee further funding would help the rest of those details fall into place quicker.

"We are into the process but there are still opportunities for people to be a part of providing this important facility for Mississippi State." A facility that is projected to take 14 months to complete once construction actually begins. Though, Stricklin notes, there could still be adjustments to the project's specs. "A lot depends on what we choose to do with, say, having a parking garage. Which would add over a million dollars." Add to the current cost estimate of $10-to-$12 million, that is. And so far bids from construction candidates have been in that range.

The state college board (IHL) is scheduled to meet next week. While State may provide some updated final exterior drawings—such as those leaning against a wall of Stricklin's office--and interior schematics Stricklin could not say if a complete project plan would be presented. Still MSU's administration is optimistic that financial and technical matters will be in-place in time for dirt to start turning soon. And, that when Bulldog squads report in October 2010 for practices they will be doing so in their very own practice kennel.

"The timetable will depend on which direction we go in financing," said Stricklin. "Some methods have a quicker timetable than others."

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