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Utes basketball: Proposals being considered for Huntsman Center improvements

Published: Tuesday, May 14 2013 3:20 p.m. MDT

A curtain system, one similar to one installed at the University of Arizona's McKale Center, is among the items being considered at the University of Utah's Huntsman Center. The curtain system allows for a more intimate atmosphere for smaller events. (Courtesy of University of Arizona Athletics) A curtain system, one similar to one installed at the University of Arizona's McKale Center, is among the items being considered at the University of Utah's Huntsman Center. The curtain system allows for a more intimate atmosphere for smaller events. (Courtesy of University of Arizona Athletics)

SALT LAKE CITY — It’s the same thing, only different. That’s kind of how Utah Athletics Director Chris Hill sees construction of a new basketball training facility and alterations to the adjacent Huntsman Center — as one huge project. Funding comes from different sources since the arena is under university jurisdiction. The athletic department rents the facility for competitions, as is the case with Rice-Eccles Stadium.

Even so, input is sought and changes are pretty much a collaborative effort.

Hill outlined several proposals that could come to fruition, including modernization of the Huntsman Center — improved lighting and sound and a draping system that would make it a more multi-use facility.

A $5 million draping set-up would make the 15,000-seat arena less cavernous for sporting events like volleyball and women’s basketball. It could also be used for things like graduation or guest speakers. Hill said a committee is exploring the possibilities. There are currently no buildings on campus capable of holding crowds between Kingsbury Hall (1,200) and the Huntsman Center. The draping, which would lead to removal of the familiar “cloud” above the arena floor, would negate the need to build a smaller venue.

The concourses at the Huntsman Center could also undergo a facelift. One proposal is to move all of the athletic department offices out of the arena and into the new basketball and sports performance facility. That would allow for the current concourses to be expanded greatly.

By moving all of the offices out of the Huntsman Center and into the new basketball training facility and sports performance building, a Hall of Fame and “wow” factor could be added to the complex. Plans call for practice gyms for the men’s and women’s basketball programs to replace W-HPER and E-HPER and bookend a building featuring coaches offices, a large strength and conditioning room, as well as sports medicine facilities.

The $24 million project will give the athletic department a second campus, resources similar to those at the new football facility.

Other nearby options may include building a parking structure on an existing lot west of the proposed building, plus a pedestrian tunnel underneath the TRAX lines south of the Huntsman Center.

MORE COURT ACTION: Funds are already being raised for the creation of six outdoor tennis courts and a grandstand west of the Eccles Tennis Center on Guardsman Way. The $1.5 million to $2 million facility would add to the eight indoor courts that already exist. Hill said it would give Utah “one of the great complexes” in college tennis and “a nice connection between outdoor and indoor.”

The project, which will be completely financed through fundraising, has already secured about one-third of the money needed.

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