Game changer: New Wayne Estes Center will be a boon for Utah State basketball, volleyball

Published: Wednesday, May 14 2014 8:40 p.m. MDT

Updated: Tuesday, May 27 2014 9:42 a.m. MDT

Ron Estes, brother of Wayne Estes, hugs Bonita Smith after a ribbon cutting as the Wayne Estes Center opens at Utah State University in Logan, Wednesday, May 14, 2014.

Ravell Call, Deseret News

LOGAN — After 29 years as a head basketball coach, Stew Morrill finally has the window in his office that he yearned for. Actually, it’s not just a window, but 12 windows that give Morrill a spectacular view of the Cache Valley below.

Morrill had been working in a windowless office during his 16 years as the Utah State head basketball coach, and he didn’t have windows in his previous stops at Montana and Colorado State.

Now with the opening of the new Wayne Estes Center just west of Utah State’s Dee Glen Smith Spectrum, Morrill has his windows, along with a sparkling brand-new facility his team can use on a daily basis, along with the Utah State women’s basketball and volleyball teams.

“All I asked for was one, but I got 12 big windows and the best view of the valley you can possibly have,’’ Morrill said. “For an old coach, they decided to shut him up and they did just that. If I’m a little goofy, please forgive me, but 29 years without a window will do that.’’

Morrill was one of several speakers at a ribbon-cutting ceremony Wednesday afternoon that included Utah State President Stan L. Albrecht, athletic director Scott Barnes, sophomore basketball player Jalen Moore, Ron Estes (the brother of Wayne), and key donors Jim Laub and Blake Kirby.

Wayne Estes played basketball for Utah State 50 years ago and is still considered the greatest player ever to play for the school. He scored 2,001 points in three years before he tragically died in a freak accident after a basketball game late in the 1964-65 season.

Estes came to Utah State from Anaconda, Montana, where he was discovered by former coach LaDell Andersen and former assistant coach Nog Hansen. He scored 48 points in his final game but was electrocuted later that evening when his head came in contact with a downed power line after a car accident.

Now his name will forever adorn a basketball and volleyball complex at the university he played for a half-century ago.

The $9.7 million, 32,000-square-foot facility will be used for both basketball and volleyball and includes chair-back seating for 1,400 fans for volleyball games. It also has a training room, an in-season strength and conditioning area, office space for the men’s and women’s basketball coaches and volleyball coaches, as well as a locker room and film room for the volleyball team.

Barnes is thrilled with the new facility and said it’s part of ongoing improvements for the USU athletic program.

“I think it’s another huge step, developing a facility that speaks to the student-athlete’s wellness,’’ Barnes said. “What we’ve tried to do the past few years is take care of our student-athletes’ needs. This is not the final piece, but it’s a huge step that allows us to do that.

“Jim Laub and Blake Kirby and others have stepped up mightily to help us advance our vision and obviously we couldn’t do it without them,'' Barnes added. "We’re very pleased with the outcome. This building has everything we want.’’

The building also includes a visual tribute to Wayne Estes inside the foyer.

Ron Estes, whose daughter Mia is on the Aggie track and field team, said he was honored when Barnes called to ask him if it would be OK to have his brother’s name on the new athletic facility.

“He had great teammates and a great coach in LaDell Andersen,’’ he said. “The people of Logan welcomed him and made him a part of the community. It’s a special honor for me and our family to be a part of this. When you lose someone who’s as special to your life as my brother was to me, it becomes very important to you to keep their memory alive.’’

Morrill said he was pleasantly pleased with how the new facility, which took eight months to build, turned out.

“I knew it was going to be nice, but it’s better (than expected),’’ Morrill said. “The offices, the court — everything’s first class.’’

Also in attendance at Wednesday’s ceremony were former USU basketball coaches Dutch Belnap and Rod Tueller, former athletic director Dave Kragthorpe, football coach Matt Wells and several of Estes’ teammates, including Reid Goldsberry, Hal Hale, Del Lyons, Alan Parrish, LeRoy Walker and Joe Watts.

Barnes said next on the athletic facilities agenda is an upgrade to the football stadium and the process has already begun.

Wayne Estes Center

Named for former Utah State All-American basketball player Wayne Estes, who died Feb. 8, 1965

Cost: $9.7 million

Size: 32,000 square feet

Contains:

— Two regulation-size basketball courts and a regulation-size volleyball court with chair-back seating for 1,400 fans.

— Office space for men’s and women’s basketball coaches and volleyball coaches.

— Locker room and film room for volleyball team.

— Training room and in-season strength and conditioning area.

— Ticketing and concession services for game days.

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