BATON ROUGE - The LSU men's and women's basketball teams had plenty to celebrate late Thursday afternoon as the ceremonial ribbon was cut outside the front doors of a $13.3 million practice facility that is attached to the north side of the Pete Maravich Assembly Center.
With several present and past members of the LSU basketball families looking on, Vice-Chancellor and Director of Athletics Joe Alleva was joined by Chancellor Dr. Michael Martin, LSU systems President Dr. Joseph Lombardi, head basketball coaches Van Chancellor and Trent Johnson, contractor Guy Hopkins, architect Tom Holden and Board of Supervisor member Laura Leach in cutting the ribbon that opened the facility.
It was hard to find much not to like about the new facility from those that will use it on a daily basis to those who wish they were still playing for the Tigers.
"It has been challenging times at LSU as you all know, and during challenging times it is nice to pause and celebrate some good news, and this is one of those days of celebration," said Dr. Martin. "We are building facilities that will benefit us for many years to come. It will benefit great student-athletes, it will benefit great coaches, it will engage great fans and keep this institution the type of institution that we know it has become and know it will continue to be."
Calling it an "extraordinary place," Dr. Lombardi said, "To bring in talent, whether it is athletic talent or academic talent, you have to provide the support and you have to provide first class space, first class instruction and first class opportunities to develop the talent that agrees to come and participate in your program."
Both the men's and women's team benefit with beautiful separate full-sized practice gymnasiums. Each has two portable goals and four overhead retractable goals, both are exact replicas of the PMAC competition court. Each gym features a scoreboard, video filming balcony and scorer's table with video and data connection. Each gyms spans 11,324 square feet and includes a regulation NCAA court in length with two regulation high school courts in the opposition direction.
"I think it is a great day for all of LSU basketball," said women's head coach Chancellor. "I am honored to be here to speak for (late Hall of Fame Coach) Sue Gunter, and all the former players that played here that made this dream possible. Coach (Dale) Brown, I can remember when you came to LSU to try and draw an interest. I know this a great day for you as you think about the program you built here for men's basketball."
Besides the men's gymnasium, the area will become the primary work area for the basketball team with a new locker room, team lounge, training room, laundry facility, coach's locker room and storage areas.
"What it means, it gives us a chance to compete at the highest level," said Tiger coach Johnson. "Also, what it means for me is that the guys I am fortunate enough to coach do not have a sense of entitlement because they are not responsible for this being built. They are responsible for having pride in this building and making sure that former players, coaches and managers alike who were responsible for this being built, that they want to come out and watch them play."
The former players on hand, both Tigers and Lady Tigers were amazed. People like All-American and 1981 SEC Player of the Year Durand "Rudy" Macklin, who walked into the practice gym and just stood for minutes in disbelief at the new facility and continued to be amazed as he saw more and more of the men's dressing room and training facility.
"It's important for the program itself and it will give us a recruiting edge," said Macklin, a member of the 16-player All-Century team selected in 2009. "It will make a player want to come here. It's a basketball player's dream. I just can't wait for the season to start and Coach Trent Johnson, it makes his life a lot easier recruiting-wise. Hat's off to the University. This is our school. It started with rubber floor and the 'Dungeon' ... We all practiced down there. Now to see it come to this. I was born too soon."
Tameka Johnson, a member of the 2009 WNBA champion Phoenix Mercury and a former Lady Tiger All-American, sees the advantage of the Lady Tigers now having their own gymnasium.
"When I was here we had to share the facilities with volleyball, men's basketball, and if there was any event in the PMAC we had to share it with them too. This allows you to come in on your own time, practice what you need to practice, change [practice] times when you need to change times and it gives the team something different. They can come in whenever they want. They don't have to go in and practice with anybody. There are enough courts on the side where you can have your own goal and participate whenever you want. I think it's great."
Jordy Hultberg, a former Tiger point guard when the Tigers won their first championship in 1979 and an assistant coach on the 1981 Final Four team, who now works for the LSU Sports Radio Network and Cox Sports TV, has seen a lot of practice facilities in his media travels.
"I have seen all the practice facilities on the NBA level where you have multi-billionaires and I never seen anything like this," he said. "This tops them all. Nothing but first-class. The courts are nothing but pristine. It you don't want to come play here, where are you going to play? I mean it's just a beautiful facility. My hat is off to everyone involved. It's great to be kind of a part of this in a sense that we played here once before and it's a wonderful, wonderful feeling."
The building also includes a central two-story lobby and staircase that ascends to the second level that has a room that can hold approximately 500 people for pre-game and post-game functions that leads into the Maravich Center concourse. The lobby showcases team displays and graphics, trophy cases and memorabilia from the past. The displays and wall graphics were designed by ZE Design of Centerville, Ohio.
In putting a close on the ceremony, Vice-Chancellor and Director of Athletics Joe Alleva stressed his feelings on the building: "What this building symbolizes to me is excellence and the striving for excellence. This building gives our coaches the opportunity to acquire the talent that we need to win and compete for championships, and that is what we are all about here. Striving for excellence and competing for championships."
The LSU Basketball Practice Facility Grand Opening
September 23, 2010
Facts About The Facility:
- Project Cost: $13,913,000
- Contractors: Guy Hopkins Construction of Baton Rouge based on the designs by the firm of Tom Holden Architects of Baton Rouge in a joint venture with RDG Sports of Des Moines, Iowa
- Total Project Area: 58,960 square feet of new construction and 1,100 square feet of renovated construction
- Ground broken in on July 1, 2008
- Two state-of-the-art practice gyms each spanning 11,324 square feet; includes a regulation NCAA court in length with two regulation high school courts in the opposite direction
- Each gym has two portable goals and four overhead retractable goals; both are exact replicas of the PMAC competition court
- Each gym can hold up to 800 people for special events
- Each gym features a scoreboard, video filming balcony and scorer's table with video and date connections to enable instant replay
- A central two story lobby and grand staircase ascends to the second level. The lobby showcases team displays and graphics, trophy cases and memorabilia from the past. The displays and wall graphics were designed by ZE Design of Centerville, Ohio.
- On the second level of the facility is a Pre-Function Room that opens to an extension of the Maravich Center concourse. It can hold approximately 500 people for pre-game and post-game functions.
- Other areas of the addition include a Press Room, Men's Basketball Locker Room, Team Lounge, Training Room, Laundry Facility, Coach's Locker Room and storage areas
LSU Chancellor Michael Martin
Opening Statement ...
"It has been challenging times at LSU as you all know, and during challenging times it is nice to pause and celebrate some good news, and this is one of those days of celebration. This facility, as I am sure you all know, is very important to us for a number of reasons. First, it gives our basketball teams a wonderful new home to operate out of, and it you are going to be a first class university and have first class programs across the board you need to provide first class facilities. Second, and I hope people appreciate this, adding this whole space will allow us to use the larger PMAC facilities more frequently for non-athletic events. Those people who may not be associated with the basketball teams will still benefit from this space, so I think that is important to note. This has also been a perfectly timed investment. This community needs to continue to create jobs, and at LSU we are restoring our facilities while helping the economy recover in East Baton Rouge Parish. It is nice to know that we had a number of people who worked their way all the way through, including some great architects. The fact of the matter is making these kinds of investments is essential. Finally, it sends a message across this campus and across this state that even during hard times, LSU is thinking about the future. We are building facilities that will benefit us for many years to come. It will benefit great student athletes, it will benefit great coaches, it will engage great fans and keep this institution be the type of institution that we know it has become and know it will continue to be. Along with being physically important, it is also symbolically important as well. Let's send those messages out that LSU is in the big time. We have big time facilities, big time student athletes, great coaches, great faculty, outstanding staff and a large number of people who love the institution enough to make this kind of investment. I want to take this time to express my appreciation to everyone who has been involved because these are labors of love despite the fact that it can be displacing at times. We are very glad to have it open and back to normal on campus."
LSU President John Lombardi
Opening Statement ...
"This is an extraordinary place. As I have wandered around the SEC and other institutions and I have watched their athletic programs grow and prosper, one of the keys to success always is mobilizing and supporting talent. It is talent that makes the difference in intercollegiate athletics just like it is talent that makes the difference in our academic enterprise. To bring in talent, whether it is athletic talent or academic talent, you have to provide the support and you have to provide first class space, first class instruction and first class opportunities to develop the talent that agrees to come and participate in your program. When we have a facility like this, which is equivalent to the laboratories we provide to our scientists, we are able to say to prospective student athletes 'You come to this place that has a commitment to doing the best. It is a place that cares about giving you a platform on which you can become the best possible talent that you can become.' When we have this kind of space we make the kind of statement that (Chancellor) Mike Martin talked about. This place is first class and will compete first class with anybody in the nation."
Vice Chancellor/Director of Athletics Joe Alleva
"One of the good things about going last is that everybody said what needs to be said. Let me tell you about the importance of this building to me. 27 months ago was one of my first days on the job here. Laura Leach and I and a few others went out put our shovels in the ground where this building is going to stand. Now, 27 months later it is complete."
"What this building symbolizes to me is excellence and the striving for excellence. I am very gratified and I want to thank the people that made this possible. The Board of Supervisors, particularly Charlie Weems, who is here tonight. I wasn't here when he did it, but I know Charlie ramroded this thing through. So Charlie, thank you. I appreciate it."
"It really is tremendously important that for us to compete like Coach Johnson said and like Chancellor Martin said and President Lombardi said, it is all about talent. I don't care how good of a coach you are, if you don't have talent, you are not going to win. This building gives our coaches the opportunity to acquire the talent that we need to win and compete for championships, and that is what we are all about here. Striving for excellence and competing for championships. This facility to me represents one of the first, and we have other facilities that we would like to take on and improve. We are going to do that as we go forward so that all of our sports have the opportunity to compete at the highest level."
LSU Women's Basketball Head Coach Van Chancellor
Opening Statement ...
"I am so honored to be here to speak for Sue Gunter, and all the former players that played here that made this dream possible. I think it is a great day for all of LSU basketball. Coach (Dale) Brown, I can remember when you came to LSU to try and draw an interest. You used to go around in your car and take purple nets and purple basketballs and throw them to kids in their driveways to try and build a program. I know this is a great day for you as you think about the program you built here for men's basketball. For all of you people that have donated and all of the people that have worked so hard to get the interest in this program and for building this facility, we thank you. Eddie (Nunez), I know you have worked awfully long and awfully hard, and I really appreciate it. (Associate head coach) Bob Starkey has done a great job putting up all of our stuff and all of our videos, thank you. Sincerely it is a great day for us. This is so valuable to our whole basketball team, and for all of you who have made this possible, thank you.
Men's Basketball coach Trent Johnson
"Obviously for me it is a time to thank everybody. Coach Chancellor did acknowledge Coach Brown, Collis Temple, Jordy Hultberg andRudy Macklin, and Ricky Blanton is here as well. I could go on and on. It is ironic that the grand opening is today and probably one of the best players that has ever played here and one of the best players that has ever played in the NBA, Bob Petit, lost his wife two nights ago. When you start thinking about the magnitude of guys like him and you witness what I had the fortune of witnessing this past weekend when we had one of the top 20 players in the country here, and you have a guy like Glen Davis that comes by and doesn't want to leave this facility, that speaks volumes to what this means."
"Our responsibility and my responsibility is to make sure that in some way, shape or form, whether it is putting their picture on the wall or with the graphics, that every former basketball player that has been involved with the men's program, there is a place for him here. That is my goal. Right now we are in the early stages of making sure we get that accomplished. Obviously when you walk in the door, you'll see a lot of the greats. Every guy that has ever worn this jersey, I want him to be acknowledged some way, shape or form in this practice facility."
"What it means, it gives us a chance to compete at the highest level. Also, what it means for me is that the guys I am fortune enough to coach do not have a sense of entitlement because they are not responsible for this being built. They are responsible for having pride in this building and making sure that former players, coaches and managers alike who were responsible for this being built, that they want to come out and watch them play. Also, that you fans who support them, like Charlie Weems and the people like yourself, and Jim Moore, who has been unbelievable to LSU athletics, that they understand that these guys are giving their hearts and souls to make this team good and to win their share of games. For me it has been a whirlwind."
"I just want to give a round of gratitude and say thanks. Obviously there have been a lot of people that have done a lot of work under Joe Alleva's tutelage. Eddie Nunez has been doing his share like a lot of other people. I just want to say thanks, and I am looking forward to this year."