Fundraising Campaign for New Athletics Facilities Builds

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Liz Gagnier

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Fundraising Boost for New UConn Basketball Champions Center Campaign Begins for Upgrades to Soccer, Baseball and Softball Facilities

From the UConn Foundation’s e-newsletter, Our Moment (February-March, 2012)

The sign in front of Memorial Stadium tells the tale. The aging stands and field will give way to a new training and practice facility for UConn Basketball.

With private commitments in hand for $17 million of the project’s estimated $30 million cost, the UConn Basketball Champions Center will soon be a reality, giving the University’s stellar basketball programs the dedicated home their supporters say is long overdue.

Momentum for the project was boosted in December by a $4.5 million gift from Peter and Pamela Werth, the largest single contribution to the Division of Athletics. That gift was soon followed by several anonymous donations totaling more than $2 million. The basketball facility is the first major construction project at UConn to be funded entirely through private donations.

The University’s Board of Trustees has approved (link) demolition of Memorial Stadium this spring to allow site preparation work to begin.

Active in the process is an Athletics Campaign Steering Committee, chaired by alumnus Robert Skinner ’93, who is also a member of the UConn Foundation Board of Directors. The committee recently held an event in Westport at the clothing store of Bill Mitchell, longtime Westport retailer and avid UConn basketball fan, to highlight the need for the facility on the UConn campus (RELATED LINK: Making the Case for the UConn Basketball Champions Center).

Mitchell was joined by UConn Coach Jim Calhoun, President Susan Herbst, then-interim Athletic Director Paul Pendergast, Skinner, and Bill Raftery, college basketball game analyst for ESPN and CBS, who acted as master of ceremonies. The event was devoted to making the case for the basketball facility, a 70,000 square foot building with practice gyms for the men’s and women’s programs, locker rooms, coaches’ offices, and areas for academic support, video analysis, sports medicine, and strength training.

Another historic contribution to University athletics — $3 million for soccer — provides strong support for the Division of Athletics’ new fundraising campaign to upgrade facilities for baseball, soft ball, and soccer. The gift from a former student-athlete, who wishes to remain anonymous, provides $1 million as an outright gift, with the remaining $2 million spread over the next five years for the Morrone Stadium Enhancement Fund.

“Athletics is the front porch of the University,” says President Herbst. “It grabs the attention of the American people, then you can open the door and show them the great teaching, learning, and research inside.” The new facility will help maintain high levels of academic success for basketball student-athletes and advance the entire university and the community, she adds.

As fundraising for the basketball facility goes forward, additional funds will be raised to upgrade the baseball, softball and soccer facilities. “All of these programs have enjoyed national success over the years, but our playing venues have fallen behind those of our peer institutions,” says Pendergast.

Like the basketball facility, each sport-specific project will be funded entirely through private donations

The most recent athletics facility built on the Storrs campus was the Burton Family Football Complex and Mark R. Shenkman Training Center, which opened in 2006, three years after the completion of the football stadium at Rentschler Field in East Hartford.

The last new playing facility to open in Storrs was The Mark Edward Freitas Ice Forum, which opened for the 1998-99 season, replacing the 1960s-era open UConn Ice Rink.

  • The George J. Sherman Family Sport Complex–the home for track and field, lacrosse, and field hockey–opened during the 1995-96 academic year.
  • Harry a. Gampel Pavilion, home of Huskies men’s and women’s basketball and volleyball, opened in 1990 and was last renovated in 2002.
  • Joseph J. Morrone Stadium, home field for the men’s and women’s soccer teams, opened in 1969 and was last renovated for additional seating in 2009.
  • The Burrill Family Field at the Connecticut Softball Stadium opened in 1987.
  • J.O. Christian Field, home of the baseball team, was last expanded in 1993, and an Indoor Batting and Pitching Facility was opened in 1997.

To support the Division of Athletics, please contact the UConn Foundation’s development department.

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