Minnesota’s legendary Williams Arena — known as just “The Barn” to most — was built back in 1928, and is in dire need of a face-lift. It has the history and nostalgic memories that most college basketball gyms don’t have, but improvements are needed to keep pace with the times. Don’t get excited just yet thinking that “The Barn” will see renovations in the very near future, as those won’t come until phase two of the development plan which, according to athletic director Norwood Teague, is ” even further off in the horizon.”
According to Teague, it’s imperative that Minnesota makes upgrades to their athletic facilities as fellow Big Ten schools have already passed them by, namely Nebraska who has very little basketball history to speak of:
Most of our Big Ten competitors are ahead of us. Nebraska has done a phenomenal job of a really holistic upgrade of their facilities as it relates to the training table and academic facility and weight rooms, things like that. They’re new to our league, but they’re a great example. They’re not far from us/ We need these facilities in order to really compete head-to-head, especially in a handful of sports that are behind.’
As you might expect, much of the $190 million is being dispersed to other plans on Minnesota’s campus aside from athletic needs. According to the article from the Associated Press:
But this is an ambitious project, which also includes new academic, dining and nutrition areas for athletes, an upgraded football practice facility and new space for the women’s gymnastics, men’s and women’s indoor and outdoor track and field and wrestling teams. This is only the first phase of the plan, with a completion target of six to eight years.
While “The Barn” won’t be a part of the initial developments and renovations, head coach Rick Pitino Jr. will see improvements to basketball facilities. Currently, “The Barn” and the adjacent Sports Pavilion host games and practices for not just basketball, but several other sports, as well. The facilities are overcrowded, and upgrading the practice facilities is on the top of the list for the first stage of the development plan.
If you recall, a new practice facility for basketball was something that former head coach Tubby Smith clamored about for years. In the spring of 2011, he explained his disappointment in the antiquated facilities: “I’d like to see something done to help basketball. We’ve done our part. We need to get that done because there really hasn’t been anything done for basketball since I’ve been here in a major way.”
How long will a major project like this take to execute? Said Teague: ”Am I guaranteeing that all this will be done in eight years? ‘No. But that’s our goal.”
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