TUSCALOOSA, Ala. – The future home of The University of Alabama’s Adapted Athletics programs has begun to take shape.
UA officially broke ground on the $10 million facility Thursday, Feb. 23, as UA President Stuart R. Bell and Adapted Athletics Director Dr. Brent Hardin recognized supporters during a ceremony at the site, which is located along the south façade of the UA Rec Center, east of the main entrance.
The two-story facility will include a NCAA regulation game venue for wheelchair basketball, locker rooms, workout/training room, strength and conditioning room, team meeting rooms and study halls. Construction is scheduled to finish in late Fall 2017.
“This will be an incredible showplace and welcoming gathering site for our adapted athletes and their supporters,” said Bob Pierce, vice president for Advancement. “The construction of a facility of this magnitude is a testament to the commitment the University, and our donors, have to our students with disabilities. It will be worthy of the national championship caliber teams who will occupy it. There are so many who helped make the building possible, but it would not have become a reality without the leadership of Dr. Bell and Mike and Kathy Mouron.”
The UA Adapted Athletics Program began in 2003 with women’s wheelchair basketball. The program has since grown to include 30 student-athletes in women’s basketball, men’s basketball, wheelchair tennis, para-rowing and adapted golf. UA is home to five national championships in men’s and women’s wheelchair basketball (2009, 2010, 2011, 2013, 2015). Wheelchair tennis has won two national championships (2013, 2015).
Additionally, more than 100 students participate in the program’s noncompetitive sports options.
“This facility will be the first of its kind in the United States and makes a very important statement about how our university values student-athletes with disabilities and persons with disabilities in general,” Hardin said.
The UA System Board of Trustees approved a $10 million budget for the facility in January 2016. Per the approval, half of the budget was to be raised through private gifts. The fundraising campaign received a significant boost when Mike and Kathy Mouron, UA alumni and Mountain Brook residents, committed a $3 million gift toward the project in February 2016.
“Kathy and I are proud that it is our alma mater which is building the first facility dedicated to adapted athletes in the country,” Mike Mouron said. “No athlete who has earned the privilege of wearing an Alabama uniform has a better attitude, or exerts more effort, than do our adapted athletes. With a Program-wide average GPA of 3.63, Alabama’s Adapted Athletic teams exemplify the term ‘student athletes’, and represent our University wonderfully.”
More than 20 UA student-athletes and coaches participated in the 2016 Paralympic Games in Rio. With the help of four former UA players and coaches, both the United States’ men’s and women’s teams won gold medals in wheelchair basketball at Rio. One former player and a current player, Babsi Gross, helped lead Germany to a silver medal in women’s wheelchair basketball.
“This kind of commitment really changes expectations of what it means to be an athlete and what is appropriate in terms of proportional support for student-athletes with disabilities,” Hardin said. “This facility will raise the bar nationally for all sports program for athletes with disabilities and especially for high performance college student-athletes with disabilities.”
UA’s men’s and women’s wheelchair basketball teams will conclude their respective seasons in the Collegiate Classic, which begins Friday at The Rec. The tournament’s main events will be held Saturday, Feb. 25, at Foster Auditorium. The UA women’s team will face the University of Illinois at 5:30 p.m., followed by the UA men facing Illinois at 7:30 p.m. More information can be found here.
The University of Alabama, the state’s oldest and largest public institution of higher education, is a student-centered research university that draws the best and brightest to an academic community committed to providing a premier undergraduate and graduate education. UA is dedicated to achieving excellence in scholarship, collaboration and intellectual engagement; providing public outreach and service to the state of Alabama and the nation; and nurturing a campus environment that fosters collegiality, respect and inclusivity.