Perhaps the best news of the week is word that the UA will break ground on a new basketball center next month. The 65,000 square foot facility will house all basketball operations, as well as two full practice courts, men’s and women’s locker rooms, weight room, training room, coaches offices, team meeting rooms, a player lounge, and an equipment room. Not all of the estimated 25 million dollar cost has been raised, but as Jeff Long stated, the need to get started is critical.
Make no mistake, Bud Walton Arena remains among the best facilities in college basketball. Twenty years after opening its doors, it is still "The Basketball Palce of Mid America." But it only has one floor, and the scheduling of practice time for both the men and the women has always been problematic. Beyond that, the scheduling of any non basketball event has been nearly impossible.
But most importantly, the new center will allow Mike Anderson and his staff to play on a more level playing field in recruiting. Facilities matter in basketball, too. In fact, one could argue that Arkansas, and most SEC hoops programs, need facilities upgrades now more than ever. Signing nationally renowned basketball players in a football driven league isnt easy. Kentucky is now the only "basketball school." Football rules at all other programs. Its a major balancing act for AD’s all over the country.
Arkansas basketball has a proud tradition. For many of us, it began with Eddie Sutton. His teams in the mid to late 70’s made us fall in love with basketball. Then Nolan Richardson took us to a zenith we’d never reached. He and his teams made us proud, and gave Hog fans all over the globe a reason to puff our chests out. Nearly twenty years have past, and we’ve learned the hard way that success can be fleeting, and should never be taken for granted.
No one understands that more than Mike Anderson. He’s still picking up the pieces of other’s mistakes, and the rebuilding and reshaping of a program’s culture doesnt happen ever night. But it IS happening, and the new Basketball Center is a giant step in the process.