Building of practice facility begins as UA freezes over

By: Bob Holt
Published: Sunday, December 8, 2013
University of Arkansas chancellor G. David Gearhart, women's head basketball coach Tom Collen, men's head basketball coach Mike Anderson, and athletic director Jeff Long throw dirt during the official groundbreaking for the new Razorback Basketball Performance Center Saturday afternoon in Fayetteville.
Photo by Michael Woods
University of Arkansas chancellor G. David Gearhart, women's head basketball coach Tom Collen, men's head basketball coach Mike Anderson, and athletic director Jeff Long throw dirt during the official groundbreaking for the new Razorback Basketball Performance Center Saturday afternoon in Fayetteville.

FAYETTEVILLE - Arkansas held its ground-breaking ceremony for a basketball practice facility as scheduled Saturday, even if the grass area where it will be built resembled the frozen tundra of Lambeau Field.

“Some people said they were sure hell would freeze over before we got this facility,” Arkansas Athletic Director Jeff Long said during the ceremony, which was held in a tent that provided a little relief from the 15-degree temperature outside. “Well, we’re going to get this facility.”

Long said he didn’t want to postpone the ceremony - which was held before the men’s and women’s teams played in Walton Arena on Saturday - despite a winter storm that hit Northwest Arkansas earlier this week and brought ice and several inches of snow.

“I think we wanted to get the message out that this is happening,” said Long, who spoke at the gathering, along with Chancellor David Gearhardt, men’s basketball Coach Mike Anderson and women’s basketball coach Tom Collen.

Basketball Practice Facility Groundbreaking

Arkansas women's basketball coach Tom Collen, men's basketball coach Mike Anderson and athletics director Jeff Long speak at the groundbreaking for the basketball practice facility on Saturday. (By Logan Wilson)
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Long has been talking about building a basketball practice facility since he became athletic director in 2008. Fund-raising is still ongoing for the $25 million facility, which is scheduled to open in the summer of 2015.

“We’ve waited a long time to make this happen, and I just wanted to go through with it,” Long said.

Arkansas Coach Mike Anderson, speaking before his team’s 74-68 victory over Clemson on Saturday, said it was a dream come true.

“Twenty years ago, Bud Walton Arena was built,” Anderson said. “Now we get the basketball performance center. If we can measure up to what we did in those years, Razorback fans, watch out.”

Arkansas Coach Tom Collen gave credit to Anderson for being a cooperative partner in scheduling practices around the men’s and women’s schedules.

Long stressed how building the facility has an academic aspect to it as well, because players on both teams no longer will have to put off taking some classes - and in some cases delaying graduation - because of scheduling conflicts with Walton Arena being the only place to practice.

“No longer will our coaches have to answer the question: If you’re so committed to basketball, why don’t you have what everybody else has with a basketball practice facility?” Long said. “Our coaches will be armed with everything they need to go out and recruit the young men and women that we need.”

Some initial site work will be done for the facility, Long said, with construction expected to start in January.

Sports, Pages 28 on 12/08/2013

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