Student fees to fund part of $25 million basketball facility

Marlene Stollings, head coach of the VCU women’s basketball team, said the new practice facility will increase VCU’s status in the NCAA and the school’s recruiting power. Photo courtesy of VCU Athletics.

Cyrus Nuval
News Editor

VCU announced plans earlier this month to build a $25 million practice facility for the men’s and women’s basketball teams using $10.5 million from student fees.

The university has already collected $14.5 million from private donations and the remaining $10.5 million will come from student fees currently being used to pay off part of VCU’s debt on the Siegel Center. The facility will be built on the 1300 block of West Marshall Street in the Carver neighborhood.

The project was originally approved by the Board of Visitors in 2011 to cost between $14 million and $16 million and be paid for entirely with private donations. The original plan featured a single gym in the Siegel Center parking lot.

This month, however, the Board approved an amendment for the new facility to be a two-story, 60,000-square-foot structure, which increased the cost by an average of $10 million.

The new facility is expected to contain separate women’s and men’s gyms, practice courts, locker rooms, coaches’ offices, strength and conditioning rooms, a sports medicine center, a hydrotherapy room, viewing decks, player lounges, equipment rooms, a video suite and player dining rooms.

Construction of the new practice facility is expected to begin sometime during the spring semester and take 15 months to complete. VCU spokesperson Anne Buckley did not give an exact date when construction will begin. As of now, the women’s and men’s basketball teams make use of the Franklin Street Gym and the Siegel Center for practice.

Buckley said student fees will not increase due to the construction of the facility and no state funds will be used. The facility will only be open to VCU men’s and women’s basketball players unless arrangements are made with the Athletics Department, she said.

VCU women’s basketball head coach Marlene Stollings said at a press conference on March 10 the new facility will increase VCU’s status in the NCAA and the school’s recruiting power.

“This practice facility will validate our growth as a national contender,” Stollings said at the press conference. “The first thing that comes to our mind is recruiting. This facility will increase our ability to attract higher caliber and profiled student athletes to this university.”

VCU men’s basketball head coach Shaka Smart said the facility will improve the welfare and experience of VCU’s basketball players.

“We talk all time about student-athlete welfare and the student-athlete experience,” Smart said at the press conference. “This practice facility will allow us to centralize all of our athletic operations in one place that’s going to have all the opportunities for our guys to have the best experience in the country.”

Some students, however, are concerned about the development and hope that the student body will benefit, in some way, from the construction of a training facility that can only be used by a select few.

Student Government Association chairperson George Pottanat said if most of the student body cannot use the facility, VCU Athletics should improve the events and benefits all students receive from its department.

“Hopefully they do have a plan or maybe someway to help out with coordinating tailgates and continually working on improving students perks,” Pottanat said. “After all this is the students’ money.”

Elise Ridley, a music major, is worried that the university administration favors the VCU basketball teams and Athletics Department over the other departments and schools.

Ridley is also concerned that the university administration is not paying enough attention to projects  that could directly benefit the student body.

“There are plenty of existing projects that need to be tackled … like student practice rooms and facilities and upgrades to the Temple building, before they add new ones,” Ridley said. “While the renovation to the Cabell Library is a start, there are other things that benefit larger groups of students that should be fixed first. If I’m paying for something that me and my peers cannot use or benefit from, then I do not support this.”

Ridley, who is a resident of Carver, is worried that construction of the facility will increase activity in her neighborhood.

“I live in the area that is intended for this construction,” Ridley said. “There’s already a lack of parking and privacy when there are games happening. I can’t imagine shoving more activity in that area.”

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