May 11, 2010
By Joanne C. Gerstner
It was a moment many years in the making, and now it was clearly real.
Michigan basketball head coaches John Beilein (men) and Kevin Borseth (women) shoveled big clumps of dirt out of Crisler Arena's east lawn Monday afternoon (May 10), signifying the start of construction for the new player development center. The coaches, along with other dignitaries, wore Wolverine-styled hard hats and broad smiles.
Michigan's player development center, slated to cost $23.2 million, will have everything the teams need: dedicated practice courts, offices for the basketball staff, larger locker rooms, state-of-the-art athletic training and workout areas, flexible-use meeting spaces, a team video room, and a Michigan basketball Hall of Fame open to the public. The 57,000 gross square foot development center, which will connect to Crisler on its east side, is scheduled to be completed by fall 2011.
Crisler Arena, now 43 years old, will also receive a $20 million facelift. New lower bowl seats and critical infrastructure improvements will come in two stages of construction over the next 15 months.
"This is an amazing day for all of us in the Michigan women's basketball family," Borseth said. "Having this is going to help us in so many different ways. We've done the best we can with the facilities we have, but it's time for the 'House that Cazzie (Russell) Built' to get some upgrades."
The funding for the renovation and new construction is coming from a combination of donations and the Athletic Department.
Project major donor Lionel Margolick, a private investment banker, wanted to help the basketball programs take a step forward. Margolick is a big supporter, attending many basketball and football games.
"I'm a Michigan fan because I feel this is the only true elite academic and athletic powerhouse, besides Stanford, in the country," Margolick, a resident of Franklin, said. "I am very happy to help Michigan basketball get what they need."
|Lionel Margolick (left) and Marty Bodnar|
Dave Brandon, Michigan's athletic director, clearly sees how these important changes and additions will impact the basketball programs. Brandon, a former Michigan football player, only needs to look through an athlete's prism to understand what the basketball players need.
"Where you spend your life is where you practice," Brandon said. "A recruit comes to our place and is like, 'Where is your practice gym?' We don't have one. 'Where are the practice facilities? Where do I hang out before and after practice? Where do I connect with the coach?'
"We just didn't have the right answers to any of these questions. Now we do. When this thing gets built, we're going to have a home."
Having an office next to where their teams work out, practice and watch video will be a powerful change for Beilein and Borseth. Crisler's cramped confines do not allow the coaches to have office space in the arena.
Plus, scheduling practices in Crisler -- the only basketball floor on campus for the teams -- will also cease to be a challenge. A court will always be open.
"I want players to drop by after they've had a biology test, and tell me how it went or just talk about anything on their minds," Beilein said. "I want players to come in, around their class schedules, and be able to shoot. My teams have always been able to have that closeness with the staff and ability to work on their game.
"This is going to open so many doors for us, because we're all going to be together in one place, for everything. That pays huge dividends, in my experience."
Michigan sophomore guard Carmen Reynolds thinks the new facility will impress potential recruits, and help put the Wolverines ahead of the rest. Many other major basketball schools, such as Michigan State, have added basketball training complexes in recent years.
"I think it was the one thing we were missing, but no more," Reynolds said. "It's going to be such an incredible thing to have, and I get to use it my senior year -- I can't wait. I'm somebody who loves to practice a lot, and now I will be able to drop in anytime I want and work on something."
"I'm looking forward to the extra practice space, it's really going to help us become a better team," Novak said. "I think it's a neat thing, and I can't wait to get in there."
Douglass added, "I've been excited ever since I've started hearing about the plans for this; I'm really happy we've broken ground on it. I think just having a court to shoot on whenever we want is huge. If you want to shoot, and it's like 10 p.m., it's really a hassle right now. It's not going to be that way in the new place. I think this is going to make us look so good to the recruits too. They're going to see what's happening at Michigan."
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