On Wednesday the University of South Florida celebrated the groundbreaking of the Pam and Les Muma Basketball Center, and with it the transformation of the USF athletic village has begun.
"I'm proud to stand here today and tell you that we've been able, through fund raising and good management of our budget, to embark on $30 million of construction for a new basketball facility, baseball stadium, softball stadium and football practice complex, utilizing no state funding. We've done it the right way, taking no more debt than we can afford," said USF Director of Athletics Doug Woolard. "I've recently seen several basketball facilities across the United States. I'm convinced that no one in America will have a finer college basketball facility than what is being built here at USF."
Philanthropists Pam and Les Muma, who is Chair of the USF Unstoppable capital campaign made the lead gift of $3 million to the basketball center on March 26, 2008.
"Giving back, I think that's part of what we should do as human beings, is give back when we can," said Les Muma. "I've always had a passion for basketball. I love the game. I always have loved the game."
The 50,000 square foot state-of-the-art Muma Center will be located on the south side of the Sun Dome and will feature:
o Two practice courts
o Player locker rooms and lounges
o Two video/film theaters
o Separate athletic training rooms for women and men
o Joint weight room for both basketball programs
o Coaches' offices and locker rooms
o Conference rooms
"Today we break ground on the Pam and Les Muma Basketball Center," said USF President Judy Genshaft. "In roughly one year's time, the athletics landscape will be completely transformed."
The Muma Basketball Center is just part of over $30 million in projects that will forever change the face of the USF athletic village.
"We have about 35 million dollars worth of projects that will be completed almost entirely by December of this year, with the rest slated to be completed by early spring of 2011.
The area under construction and fenced off on the north side of the Sun Dome will be the new State-of-the-art Athletic Training Table and dining hall.
"It's going to be spectacular," said associate Director of Athletics Bill McGillis. "It will very likely be the nicest training table of any program in the country. It will be state-of-the-art. There will be seating for 240 people, with movable walls, so we can do the entire football team in one area, and another team in another area. It will be all glass on the exterior, and will be spectacular."
USF will also have three new practice fields, two grass fields and one with an artificial surface with beautiful fencing and a plaza surrounding it. The practice fields will be built right outside the football locker rooms, that way there will be no more long walks to practice and no running when there is a threat of lightning.
The Bulls will have a brand new baseball stadium, a brand new softball stadium, and of course the new basketball practice facility. All of those will be built right off of Bull Run blvd. Right now when you come on to the campus off of Fowler, it dead ends at the Athletic Center, which is one of the nicest building there is in the country, but between Fowler and the Athletic Center, it's kind of barren and unattractive, but come December you're going to see a new front entrance to the Sun Dome with the Mumas basketball facility to the east side of street, and to the left will be the new baseball and softball stadiums, giving the athletic village an entirely different look.
"It's going to be spectacular, and when you put all that together with Raymond James Stadium, they'll be among the best in the country," said Bill McGillis. "I don't care if you rattle off Ohio State, Florida, Texas, any of them. The combination of our facilities will be as good as there is in America. You put that together with the leadership and coaching staff we have in place, its one heck of a combination."
Construction on the facilities should begin in April, and USF is hopeful to have the Muma Center, along with the baseball, softball and football facilities all completed by the end of the year. Ground-breaking ceremonies for the baseball, softball and Morsani Football Practice Facility will occur later this spring.
"Everything will be completely done except for the Training Table by December. The Training Table will be done by early spring of next year, probably around Signing Day," said McGillis. "The football practice complex, which will be great, will be done in August in time for two-a-days. The baseball and softball stadiums and basketball practice facility will be done in December."
For Bulls fans it seemed like an eternity that they've heard about and waited for these upgrades, but now it's happening at a feverish pace.
"In that time things were happening in terms of planning, fund raising, and design, those things were all happening, but it was in a measured way, and we had to do it the right way. We had to secure funding, and we still need to raise more funding. It's all a done deal even if we don't raise another dollar, but our intentions are to raise a lot more to help repay the debt service that we took on."
With over $30 million dollars in upgrades to the USF athletics village and great leadership and coaching staffs, and everything that Tampa has to offer, the future for USF athletics looks very bright.
"This facility will give us an opportunity to recruit anybody in this country and will help us compete for a Big East championship," said Women's Head Basketball Coach Jose Fernandez
"To see so many great things happening around this university, it just makes you feel special to be a part of it. This is what I call a game changer. It will change the perception of our basketball program nationally. And that's a huge thing for the university and in recruiting. This will be the start of great tradition in USF basketball." – Men's Basketball Coach Stan Heath
This will also help the football program both on the field and in recruiting, and is one of the reasons why Coach Skip Holtz was so excited to come here and take what has been considered the best football job in the Big East conference. With the opportunity to go to a BCS championship game, a BCS Bowl game, USF has long been considered a gold mine, and the new state-of-the-art facilities are the final piece of the puzzle.