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Image 8 of The Cats' Pause, August 25, 1990

Part of The Cats' Pause

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£77i& &at&' &au&& August 26, {CtfO ANSWERING THE 4WAKE-UP* CALL After a couple of decades of what Jerry Claiborne called 'going to sleep' in terms of improving athletic facilities, UK's now in the process of putting together some of the best sports complexes in the country At one time, the University of Kentucky had few peers when it came to on-campus athletic playing and training facilities. •In 1924, the UK Alumni Association raised $100,000 to build 2,800-seat Alumni Gym, what was then one of the finest playing arenas in the country. It was called a "White Elephant" by those who saw little need for such an extravagant gymnasium at that time, but soon enough Adolph Rupp and his basketball Wildcats had outgrown the small arena. •By 1941, when Dr. H.L. Donovan became president of the university, there was already talk of building a new basketball home for the Wildcats, one that Donovan said "will properly take care of our athletics, our health service, physical education and recreation." In 1950, that became a reality with the completion of the $3,925 million, 11,500-seat Memorial Coliseum, at the time, far and away the most luxurious and awe-inspiring basketball building in the country. •Eventually, UK basketball outgrew the Coliseum, too, and for the 1976-77 season, the Wildcats moved into 23,000-seat Rupp Arena, then the largest basketball-only arena in the country. Built by the city of Lexington, Rupp Arena is the major portion of the $53 million Lexington Center complex, which includes a convention-exhibition hall, a 50-store mall and a luxury hotel. •Although they were never considered among the finest in the nation, UK's football facilities, during the '60s and '70s—Shively Center, built in the late '50s and Commonwealth Stadium, completed in 1973—got the job done. With the exception of Rupp Arena—which was built and is owned by the city of Lexington—Kentucky pretty much rested on its laurels after Commonwealth Stadium was completed...until recently. The $5.7 million E.J. Nutter Training Center, one of the nation's showcase football facilities, was completed in September 1987. Earlier this spring, a $840,000 renovation of Memorial Coliseum was completed, giving the basketball team one of the finest training facilities in the country. A third major facility is now in the works. Groundbreaking for a new $7 million indoor training facility—which will be used primarily by the football, baseball, golf and track teams—will be held this September. Former Wildcat football coach Jerry Claiborne, who is helping raise much of the funds needed for the complex in his current role as a development consultant at UK, talks about the indoor training facility: Where and how the new facility will be built: "The new indoor practice facility is going to be built between the present baseball field and the track. It's a big field out there, but it's going to cover the entire field. The dimensions of the facility will be 240 feet wide and 500 feet long; at the highest point, it will be 60 feet in the middle." Uses for the new facility: "The thing that is so unique about the indoor practice facility that we've visited at Kent State is the state-of-the-art of the netting. It is just a fantastic facility where a lot of people can participate at the same time and not worry about running into each other. "We're trying to get as much practice area as we can underneath a roof and so the facility will have a complete football field along with end zones. There will be a six-lane track a fifth of a mile long around the field, which will be some type of artificial surface. There will be a 120-yard straightaway down one side that has nine lanes of track. As you walk into the building, to the far end will be a runway for the pole vault pit. which will be up J^||||j|gf^^j| against the wall. The high-jump pit will be on the far right hand corner of the building. To the left as you enter will be long-jump and triple-jump pits. The shot put and javelin practice areas will be out of the end zone going toward the 50-yard-line. "The teams that will use this facility a good deal to great advantage will be the men's and women's golf teams, the women's and men's track and crosscountry teams, the basketball teams, the gymnastics team and, of course, the football team. "These teams will be able to work because of the nettings that mentioned ^^¦¦¦^¦B earlier. Push a button and three batting cages come down along the nine lanes of straightaway track. The lanes are 42 inches wide. They will cover two or three of those lanes. You can get a pitcher, catcher and batter inside the netting of a cage. You can have three different groups working while people are running right beside the cages because the netting catches all the balls. Push another button and netting covers the entire football playing field. This will enable the baseball team to take infield or outfield practice. The track team would be working on every event. The golf team could be hitting balls off a mat into the net and practicing putting on the turf, all going on at the same time. "This probably won't happen because practice sessions can be scheduled at different hours, but if an emergency came you could li I won't say this indoor practice will make us the best, but I don't think we will have to take a back seat to anybody. Once a student-athlete visits our campus and sees what we've got academically and socially and then goes and sees our facilities athletically, he won't leave here unimpressed with what the university has to offer in all aspects of his college life." let the golf team use one end of the football field, because there's also a net that drops down at the 50-yard-line; so the golf team could be practicing at one end of the field, the baseball team could be taking infield practice on the other end, and hitting in the batting cages, and the athletes could be working on all their events with the exception of the shot put and javelin throw because they would have to use the same area that the baseball team would be using. "The gymnastics team will have an area of its own, where the athletes will be able to do all their exercises, which is very difficult in their present practice area. This is a building that we really have needed on our campus for a long time because our golf team has been trying to hit balls in the basement of Alumni Gym and anybody who has ever been in Alumni knows about that situation. And our track and baseball teams have been working out some in the tobacco barns and things like that in the winter months, which certainly isn't con-dusive to recruiting topflight baseball players and track people." —JERRY CLAIBORNE No more battling the weather: "If a thunderstorm, lightning or some other type of severe weather comes about during football practice, the team can immediately leave the practice area and enter the indoor facility, which will be only about a hundred yards away from the present practice field. Coach (Bill) Curry said that ¦¦¦¦¦¦¦¦¦¦¦ at Alabama during the two-a-day practice sessions, when the sun was so hot and the temperatures in the high 90s and low 100s, they went inside and practiced. The heat was still there, but the sun was not directly on the players, which kept them from being sapped by the extreme heat of the sun. We had never even thought of that because we didn't have an indoor facility, but this is a big plus during the two-a-day sessions. "Also, in preparation for playing Florida in late November, our practices had to be held inside at the Seaton Center because of severe weather. Now, they could go into this indoor practice facility and not miss a beat in preparation for that game. Another plus that coach Curry mentioned, if and when the opportunity comes and they played in the Sugar Bowl, which is held indoors, all their practice sessions would be indoors before they With the addition of the proposed indoor training facility, shown in the artist's rendering above, to go along with the Nutter Center and the newly-renovated Memorial Coliseum, UK will have three of the finest athletic training facilities in the nation. went to New Orleans." Paying for the facility: "The building is going to cost around $7 million and we are desperately trying to raise $3'/2 million to where the funds will be matched by the athletic department. I'm excited about it. I think a lot of people have shown interest. We have 43 meetings set up throughout the state, so this is going to give everybody who is a friend or an alumnus of the university an opportunity to contribute to this building." New facility should be a boon to so-called "non-revenue" sports, as well as major sports: "We feel this is the type of thing we would like to have because it is going to benefit the entire athletic department, not just football, not just basketball. We're talking about some of our non-revenue sports that in order to be as good as they would like to be need an indoor facility where they can practice the year-round like our southern neighbors can, plus like our northern neighbors can in the Big Ten. "I went to Paducah on Wednesday, London on Thursday, showing the video tape; the people can see where really need this building. They can talk about where we're seventh or eighth in the conference in the overall championship trophy. We're asking our coaches and student-athletes in some of these sports to win without the proper facilities to prepare to win. I think a big example of what an indoor practice facility can do is what has happened to our tennis program. They've been ranked in the top 20, both the men's and women's programs. They've been ranked in the top 20 the past three or four years. This didn't come about until we got the Hilary Boone Indoor Tennis Facility. I think the same thing will happen to our other programs; not only will we be able to recruit the top student-athletes in different sports, but we will also have the facilities to train them and improve their athletic abilities once they get here." Similar facility at Kent State already paying dividends: "When I visited Kent State in March, the track coach told me they had already broken their indoor pole vault record four times. They also set four track records in the sprints. Our golf team played in a tournament with their golf team in Ohio in April. Kent State Please see, NEW FACILITY, page 22