The budget has been fully and finally cleared for Connecticut to erect its long-awaited practice facility.
It's somewhat surprising that one of the best programs in the country, boasting three national titles in the past 14 years, lacks a practice facility. But the nature of having such buildings/spaces has transformed from luxury to chic to nearly mandatory in the modern recruiting age. Only after UConn got its third national title, in 2011 under Jim Calhoun, did the talks and process of this project start to pick up steam.
And after more than two years of fundraising, with a little help from Connecticut state taxpayers but mostly from private donors, the school is closer than ever to receiving its shiny new building. On Wednesday, according to the AP, the board of trustees at UConn approved a $33.3 million budget for the building, the ledger coming out to $300,000 more than initially projected. All things considered, that's pretty good -- until you realize that "doesn't include furniture, fixtures and equipment, which is expected to push the cost closer to $40 million," according the AP's report.
"We probably need to raise another $7 to $8 million. We're about 75 to 80 percent there," Warde Manuel, the school's athletic director, said Wednesday. "That will be the final, final (budget)."
The vast majority of the funding is coming from private donations, with $231,300 to be picked up from the university's operating funds. The slight increase in funding will pay for the design of a basketball Hall of Fame, which will be located in the facility and open to the public. Among other things, it will display the school's three men's and eight women's NCAA championship trophies.
Manuel also said UConn is aiming toward having its practice facility being the best, or near the best, of any in the counry when all is completed. Ground has already been broken on the project; the new facility will literally be across the street from Gampel Pavilion, taking root where UConn's on-campus football stadium once stood.
The road that is adjacent to Gampel and the new practice post? The recently renamed Jim Calhoun Way. UConn baptized/unveiled the road during its annual Husky Run on Wednesday. The run is a "race" that invites anyone to slap pavement with the team and coaches, signaling the start of UConn's preseason. News of the road renaming came last weekend when UConn held a big gala to pay tribute to its Hall of Fame coach. Calhoun has remained instrumental in getting private funds to make the basketball facility a reality.
With fundraising still contininuing, UConn has not formally announced a date it expects the facility to be formally opened.