The Daily Illini

Ubben Basketball Complex to undergo $30 million renovation

Photo Courtesy of Illinois Athletics

Photo Courtesy of Illinois Athletics

By Gavin Good, Staff writer

Illinois director of athletics Josh Whitman announced a $30 million renovation project for Ubben Basketball Complex, the practice facility for the Illinois men’s and women’s basketball programs.

The renovations are expected to be completed about three years after the plan is approved by the University’s Board of Trustees and once construction begins. Whitman touted the plan as an instrument to aid the men’s basketball program in getting back to a nationally competitive level, and one which the women’s program can use to become competitive in the Big Ten Conference and nationally.

When it was built in 1998, Ubben was on the forefront of standalone practice facilities for Division I basketball programs, and Whitman believes it helped propel the men’s program to years of high-level success and its national title game appearance in 2005.

“There is a direct correlation between the construction of the Ubben Complex and the unparalleled success our program enjoyed over the next 10 years that followed,” Whitman said. “In the 20 years since Ubben opened, the concept has been copied by programs from coast-to-coast. Now, it is imperative for us to ensure that this outstanding facility remains as cutting-edge today as it was when it opened.”

Dubbed the Illinois Champions Campaign, Ubben will be expanded to more than twice its current square footage, adding about 45,000 square feet to the building and reorienting the structure for a grand entryway on the south side of the building opening up to St. Mary’s Road.

Added court space, new sports medicine space and facilities, an improved strength and conditioning area, expanding and renovated office space, new locker rooms with more modern amenities, study spaces and new team areas are all included in the expansion plans. About 8,300 square feet of existing space will be remodeled while the rest will be added by expanding the facility out toward the east, south and west, while keeping the north wall as it is currently.

Each program will have a new half court space installed alongside their current full court spaces so that groups can split up and work on the half court space while not disrupting what’s happening on the full court. The locker room sizes will be tripled, and the strength and conditioning area will be two stories.

The Champions Campaign is part of the athletic department’s $300 million “With Illinois” fundraising campaign, which includes a proposed downtown, multi-use hockey facility, a new football practice facility, renovations to Illinois and Eicrhelberger fields and the proposed Demirjian Park, which will include a new track and soccer-specific stadium.

Whitman is not concerned with the financial stress of balancing multiple large-scale projects simultaneously. The vision for all of the projects is flexible and dependent on the amount of money Illinois is able to fundraise from its coalition of donors and alumni.

“These facilities are a lot like technology, right. As soon as you buy a computer, by the time you get it installed in your office it feels like there is already a new version out there that you need to go buy,” Whitman said. “Facilities can be a little bit like that, so we want to make sure when we make these improvements we’re not just coming even to where we should be today, but you’re kind of throwing into the future to understand where this is going to be two years from now, three years from now. And that’s hard, because you have to project a little bit, you have to be creative.”

Both men’s basketball head coach Brad Underwood and women’s basketball head coach Nancy Fahey agreed that the renovations will help make the program’s facilities able to compete with the best in the country, and that it should help bolster recruiting efforts as well as provide athletes with a more complete, modern space to develop in.

“This renovation will offer a comprehensive, functional space that is the players’ home-away-from-home and has them excited every time they walk in the doors,” men’s basketball head coach Brad Underwood said. “Bottom line, it will be a facility that allows our players to achieve their best as students and athletes.”

It is unclear exactly when the Ubben renovations will be completed in relation to the multiple other projects the University has planned — it will definitely be after the football facility is completed. For now, Whitman and his staff are excited about the allure the renderings and plans for the renovation will give to each basketball program.

“If we felt like there wasn’t momentum right now in the Illini Nation to make some of these improvements, then these would be pretty short conversations,” Whitman said. “But what we feel is that we have a fan base right now, and an alumni base and donor base, that is incredibly energized and excited about the future of this program.”

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