SALT LAKE CITY — After years of talk about a new basketball facility at the University of Utah, official fundraising efforts for the new $36 million Jon M. and Karen Huntsman Basketball Center kicked off Monday.
The project will include a new basketball practice and training facility for the men’s and women’s teams, as well as renovations to the main arena and strength and conditioning rooms for several other U. sports.
“This is a major basketball facility that will give us everything we need to be successful,’’ said Utah athletics director Chris Hill. “It’s fantastic.’’
Several former Ute players, including Arnie Ferrin, Mike Newlin, Jeff Jonas and Jimmy Soto, along with Ute boosters and community leaders, were on hand for a luncheon at the Huntsman Cancer Institute.
Construction on the new 80,000-square-foot facility, which will be located immediately northwest of the Huntsman Center arena, will get underway in the spring of 2014. Work is scheduled to be completed prior to the 2015-16 basketball season.
While the whole project will cost $36 million, the basketball center price is $26 million. Like the new Utah football center, Hill said half the money will come from private fundraising and the other half from Pac-12 revenue.
“We already have the finest facility in the Pac-12 and by the time we finish the additions with this basketball center, no university in America is going to be able to challenge us as far as the wonderful facilities,’’ said Jon Huntsman, whose name has graced the U. arena for the past 30 years after a major donation. “We’re excited about the Runnin’ Utes for the next many years and we’re going to make this $36 million facility, added to the Huntsman Center, the best in America. It’s a community effort.’’
Besides the new basketball practice center, which will include two gymnasiums, a sports medicine center, film rooms, locker rooms and a strength and conditioning center, some $6 million will be used for arena improvements for lighting, sound and draping for other sports, as well as two grand entrances for a hall of fame and legacy hall.
Newlin, an all-American who played for Utah in 1968-71, said he originally came to Utah because of the new arena, which was called the Special Events Center at the time. He sees a “symmetry” in coming back to Utah 46 years after he first came to help raise funds for a new basketball center.
“It’s got to be a game-changer for recruiting,’’ Newlin said. “The people of Utah are the finest people, the most generous people I’ve ever seen, but with this facility with the natural beauty ... this is beyond stupendous.’’
Utah coach Larry Krystkowiak, who has known about ideas for the new facility since he came to Utah three years ago, is thrilled that it has come to fruition.
“It’s pretty amazing to start breaking ground on a facility that I truly believe is an opportunity for us not only stay up with the rest of our league but to set the bar in our league,’’ said Krystkowiak. “It’s going to be great for future student-athletes. It’s a pretty special time.’’
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