UK Athletic Board Approves Practice Facility Funding

Sat May 07, 2005 - Midwest Edition

LEXINGTON, KY (AP) Kentucky’s basketball teams could have a practice facility to use as early as October 2006 under a funding plan approved by the university’s Athletic Association board.

The board also approved a $54.2-million budget for Kentucky athletics for the 2006 fiscal year, which will start July 1. Kentucky’s athletic department is self-sustaining and receives no financial support from the state or university.

Executive associate athletic director Rob Mullens presented the budget and practice facility funding proposals to the board, which approved both unanimously. The university’s board of trustees must also approve the practice facility funding. That board’s next meeting will be May 10.

The design for the $30-million practice facility is complete, Mullens said. He said construction on the facility, which will be connected with Memorial Coliseum, could begin by late summer.

The goal is for the basketball teams to be able to use the facility for the start of preseason practice in October 2006, and for the rest of the building to be complete by early 2007, Mullens said. The facility also will include locker rooms, weight rooms andoffices for most Kentucky coaches and administrators.

Building a practice facility “is absolutely the most important thing we can do for Kentucky basketball and for the athletic department in total,” athletic director Mitch Barnhart said.

Barnhart said there are numerous scheduling conflicts among the four programs that use Memorial Coliseum for practices or games –– men’s and women’s basketball, gymnastics and volleyball.

“It’s important for us to be able to eliminate some of those,” he said. “It will have a great impact on our entire operation.”

Funding for the project –– which has been delayed by slow fund-raising –– is somewhat piecemeal. In March, the state legislature authorized the university to issue $7 million in bonds. That bond money will be repaid by the athletic department, Mullens said.

Mullens said two “gap financing measures” will be used to pay for construction while fund-raising efforts continue. The athletic department will use $3 million of its $4.2 million fund balance and borrow, over a two-year span, $9.5 million from its quasi endowment.

Mullens said $8 million in private gifts already have been received for the project.

“I like the way fund-raising is going,” Barnhart said. “It’s going very well for us. But this gives us the short-term financing we need to be able to move on with the project. We’ve got a solid plan put in place for a facility that’s very, very important for us.”

Barnhart said no donor has made a gift sizable enough to secure naming rights for the practice facility.

The athletic department’s budget is slightly larger than that of the previous fiscal year, which was $51.5 million.

Football will generate $17.5 million, or 32.3 percent, of the department’s projected income for the upcoming fiscal year, while men’s basketball will generate a projected $10.93 million, or 20.2 percent.

Those two sports also will receive the most money. Not including scholarships, which are a separate item in the budget, football will receive $6.28 million (11.6 percent) and men’s basketball will receive $5.34 million (9.9 percent).

Women’s basketball will receive $1.77 million (3.3 percent) and the university’s other 19 sports will receive a combined $5.59 million (10.3 percent). Scholarships for all sports will cost $7.81 million, or 14.4 percent.

The athletic department, for the third straight year, will give $1 million to the university’s general fund for academic scholarships.