UNT’s push to build a basketball practice facility appears to be picking up some steam. I mentioned a while back that the project is one of a few the UNT athletic department has a committee formed to look into.
Uber booster Ernie Kuehne is on the committee and told me a while back that he will play a key financial role in the project.
UNT has looked into what the best locations are for a practice facility. The committee considered the gym across from the Super Pit that is now used extensively by the university for physical education classes, both in the gym and in the classrooms that are also located in the facility.
The logistics of putting a practice facility in that location didn’t make sense, so the committee has now moved on and has settled on a vacant gym on the old Liberty Christian High School campus that is now a part of the Mean Green Village. UNT converted one of the gyms in that facility into the Mean Green Volleyball Center.
A second gym that also doubled as the school cafeteria is not being used.
The plan at this point is to convert that gym into a basketball practice facility.
I was told that a large portion of the funds for the project have been committed. What is up for debate is the design of the facility and how extravagant UNT wants to make the venue. UNT could go bare bones and have a basic gym and locker rooms or spend a little more money and add amenities like players’ lounges.
The key issue is having a gym that UNT’s players would have access to at any time to get up some extra shots or play outside of regular practice times. UNT athletic director Rick Villarreal talked a little about the importance of a practice facility at the Sun Belt Conference tournament in Hot Springs. He pointed out that the floor is up at the Super Pit for a large part of the year. The venue is owned by the university, which uses the coliseum for a number of other events throughout the year.
UNT’s teams have to move practice to a number of different venues, from the Norval Pohl Rec Center to the PEB to the gym across from the Super Pit.
The addition of a basketball practice facility would address a lot of those issues.
It’s a situation where UNT likely needs to strike while the iron is hot in terms of its basketball program. Johnny Jones built arguably UNT’s top program – and easily the top program on campus in a high profile sport – before leaving for LSU. It seems like Tony Benford will pick up right where Jones left off in terms of improving the stature of UNT basketball.
What could help UNT continue that upward climb is a practice facility, especially since so many other programs have them at this point.
SMU built the Crum Basketball Center, a $13-million, 43,000 square-foot palace, while TCU has the Ed & Rae Schollmaier Basketball Complex.
The level of competition UNT faces will also jump up when the school moves to Conference USA after this season. UTEP has the Foster Stevens Basketball Center, $14.3 million, 43,000-square foot complex.
Benford and his staff have already shown the ability to continue to bring in talent. P.J. Hardwick was a steal and T.J. Taylor is arguably one of the top players in terms of raw talent UNT has landed in years.
Adding a practice facility would give Benford more to work with while continuing to build the program.
It looks like that facility will be built in an open gym in the Mean Green Village.