UCCS to construct new athletic faciltiy

By Tom Hutton published April 19, 2007

COLORADO SPRINGS -- The University of Colorado at Colorado Springs will replace the smallest basketball venue among NCAA Division II schools with a 1,500 seat athletic field house along North Nevada Avenue, according to plans unveiled Thursday to members of the CU Board of Regents.

The CU Regents, meeting on the UCCS campus, were briefed about the plans by Brian Burnett, vice chancellor, Administration and Finance. Chancellor Pam Shockley-Zalabak announced the building during her presentation to the regents. Steve Kirkham, director, Intercollegiate Athletics, and several coaches attended the meeting to show appreciation to the regents and CU President Hank Brown.

"We are grateful to President Brown and the regents and their decision to invest in our growing success," Shockley-Zalabak said. "This facility, while an interim solution, moves the university forward in its quest to have a competitive intercollegiate athletics program as part of a vibrant campus life."

The UCCS Mountain Lions field 12 men's and women's sports and compete in NCAA Division II and the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference. Men's and women's basketball, as well as women's volleyball, use a campus gymnasium that seats about 400, the smallest among Division II schools, according to Kirkham. This year, the men's basketball team achieved its best record in UCCS history (16-12) and the women's volleyball team earned regional rankings. Success on the court led to overcrowding in the existing field house and complaints from students, fans, players and referees.

UCCS invested $40,000 to expand gymnasium seating this year but overcrowding remained an issue.

From Presidential Initiative funds designated for athletics, Brown will direct $2 million for the construction of the field house.

"Intercollegiate athletics is an important facet of student life and the campus experience, and we're pleased to be able to help with a desperately needed new home for Mountain Lion student-athletes," said CU President Hank Brown. "This project, combined with the significant enhancements to academic buildings that are planned or underway, will continue to transform the vibrant UCCS campus."

Currently at UCCS, three academic buildings are under construction or substantial renovation. Dwire Hall is undergoing extensive renovation, the Heller Center for Arts and Humanities is being extensively renovated and partially restored and a new Science and Engineering Building is under construction. The academic building projects have a combined value of more than $63 million. Additionally, a $12 million Student Recreation Center is under construction.

Although plans remain preliminary, UCCS officials believe that in addition to seating for 1,500, the new field house will provide locker rooms, a basketball/volleyball court, an indoor track, weight room and pitching and hitting areas for the university's women's softball team. All UCCS intercollegiate sports teams will use the field house.

Plans call for the building to be located on the east side of North Nevada Avenue north of the intersection of North Nevada and Austin Bluffs Parkway on the western edge of the university's property. The 30,000 square foot building will have a stone and stucco façade and be built near an existing hillside. The site will provide ample parking following the completion of I-25 construction. A contractor for I-25 is currently using the property and parking lots as a staging site for equipment and materials.

"We anticipate a Summer 2008 opening," Burnett said. "That means next season will be the last played in our current undersized gymnasium."

The field house is the latest in athletic facility improvements at UCCS. In 2005, the Mountain Lion Softball Field was improved. In 2006, UCCS joined with Colorado Springs Christian School to build 1,200-seat-Mountain Lion Stadium for use by university soccer and high school football.

Both Mountain Lion Stadium and the Mountain Lion Softball Field use state-of-the-art artificial playing surfaces.

Eventually, university officials hope to build a 3,000 to 5,000 seat field house to anchor the university's presence along North Nevada Avenue and to complement revitalized commercial efforts along the corridor. Fundraising is underway for the estimated $20 million project.

UCCS, located on Austin Bluffs Parkway in northeast Colorado Springs, is the fastest growing university in Colorado and one of the fastest growing universities in the nation. The university offers 26 bachelor's degrees, 17 master's and four doctoral degrees. The campus enrolls about 7,600 students annually. For more information, visit http://www.uccs.edu

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