UConn: Construction to begin on basketball center

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STORRS, CONN. (AP) - The University of Connecticut plans to break ground in the spring on its new basketball training center after raising $24 million toward the construction of the building.

The UConn Foundation announced on Tuesday that it has donations and pledges in hand for 75 percent of the estimated $32 million in construction costs for the facility, which is being built entirely with private funds.

The school said it expects to finance the remaining $8 million. School officials said the overall cost of the center, including furnishings and equipment would likely approach $40 million.

“UConn is fortunate to have many strong supporters across the nation, who have dedicated themselves to the academic advancement of the university, the research ambitions of our faculty and students, as well as athletics,” UConn President Susan Herbst said in a statement.

“As we continue to build and renovate so many facilities on our multiple campuses, an outstanding new home is needed for our championship men’s and women’s basketball programs.”

The facility will be built adjacent to Gampel Pavilion on the site where the former football stadium was razed earlier this year.

Plans call for separate practice courts for the men’s and women’s basketball teams, locker rooms, weight rooms, classrooms, a sports medicine center and offices for the basketball staff.

Women’s basketball coach Geno Auriemma said it will give the program and players a lot more flexibility.

“It gives us an opportunity to practice at times that are convenient to us and not to the building,” he said. “We get a chance to maximize whatever talents our players have, basketball-wise academically.”

The center also is expected to have a public area to celebrate the history of UConn basketball, and house Husky memorabilia, including the trophies from the three men’s and seven women’s national championship seasons.

The project is expected to take about two years to complete.

Alumnus Mark Shenkman, the chairman of the UConn Foundation Board of Directors, and his wife, Rosalind, recently committed $2 million to help the fundraising effort meet the goal to start construction, the school said.

The Shenkmans previously donated $2.5 million to help build the Mark R. Shenkman football training center, which opened across the street in 2006.

This summer, the school announced that Webster Bank had made a significant donation to the basketball building, but would not release the details.

Last December, the school announced that a Woodbridge couple, Peter J. and Pamela H. Werth donated $4.5 million for the building, the largest single private gift to the Division of Athletics.

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