Practice Gym On Schedule For January Opening

That surrounding fence has left the casual passer-by wondering how work on Mississippi State's new basketball complex has proceeded over the course of spring. Well, no need wondering now as framing for the top floor stands above any concealment. Way, way above.

In the past week the first sets of steel girders have risen, proof of accelerated progress as well as a reminder just how big this facility is going to ultimately stand in front of Humphrey Coliseum. According to athletic director Scott Stricklin the project on pace for a winter finish. "It's looking like January 2011 for complete move-in," Stricklin reported today. That is a revised date from the original goal of October 2010 when the project was announced by former a.d. Greg Byrne last summer. First dirt was broken on August 25 but a long wet fall meant unavoidable delays in getting the foundation work done.

Spring weather was much more accommodating fortunately and construction has moved along well on the ground floor. Now crews have moved up in both level and scale, to the actual gym area itself which will eventually contain 23,500 square feet of court space; purportedly the largest in the Southeastern Conference with two complete regulation courts. Hardwood courts, no less, and separable by a retractable wall in case both the men and women teams need to practice at the same hours.

The upper floor, which will be level with the main concourse of Humphrey Coliseum, will also house coaching offices for both staffs, as well as training rooms and weight/workouts areas. And there will be a large entrance lobby tying into the Hump's original entrances with space for meetings and receptions. The parking garage at ground level is projected at 84 spaces, and available literally around-the-clock for use by Bulldog players who feel the need to play a little basketball. They won't have to align their personal schedules around availability of The Hump or the Sanderson Center any more. For that matter the facility is expected to be used by the entire athletic department and the University itself for non-basketball needs, in no small part due to the parking garage and easy access for folk coming to campus.

When announced, the budget was put at $11.2 million. Stricklin said today that this original total "is still correct". The key gift of $4 million has been provided by the Henry Mize Foundation, overseen now by 1983 alumnus Buzzy Mize. This foundation has funded the scoreboard/video center at The Hump and other Mississippi State projects. Richard Adkerson of Phoenix, MSU Class of '69, provided another $2 million; and Richard Rula of Jackson leads a list of other unspecified gifts to the project.

When begun, some eight million of the total was committed in pledges and gifts. The Bulldog Club arranged for at least two more millions provided from courtside seating revenues over the next decade. To get construction started in 2009, Mississippi State did take out a $5 million loan which will be paid back from donations and future revenues.

Stricklin, who had a lead role in pushing this project to its starting point in his prior post of a.d. for external affairs, said today that a formal name for the completed facility has not been decided. Naturally though the Mize Foundation will have a prominent place when it is time to hang titles on the finished structure. JESCO of Tupelo/Fulton is the general contractor.

In related basketball news, the Bulldog Club is creating a Basketball Enhancement Fund to build a budget specifically for upgrading and maintaining Mississippi State's home kennel. The fund is initiated for the coming 2010-11 season and will require additional per-seat donations for the Coliseum's lower level. Bulldog Club members picking these seats during the annual selection days will pay an extra donation, ranging from $150 to $500 depending on specific seat location they choose.

The Bulldog Club hopes this fund will bring in a new $2.5 million over the coming five-year period, and it will be designated for the 35-year-old Humphrey Coliseum.

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