UMass breaks ground for football, basketball facilities

Last modified: Sunday, July 28, 2013
AMHERST — University of Massachusetts Chancellor Kumble Subbaswamy didn’t let a shoulder injury that left his arm in a sling prevent him from utilizing a ceremonial shovel as the athletic department broke ground Friday for the Football Performance Center and the Basketball Champions Center.

The football facilities building is a part of a $34.5 million upgrade to McGuirk Stadium that also includes a new press box. The Football Performance Center, which will be built above the north end zone, will house locker rooms, coaches offices, meeting rooms and a weight room. The addition will make UMass compliant with Mid-American Conference standards, allowing the school to host games again beginning in 2015, when the school is expected split its home schedule between McGuirk and Gillette Stadium in Foxborough.

“It’s going to allow us to bring football back home,” UMass President Robert Caret said. “We expect us to have a number of games back on campus beginning in 2015.”

Sen. Stanley Rosenberg, a 1977 UMass alum who played in the marching band, echoed Caret’s sentiment.

“I’m looking forward to the team coming home and the band coming home to play as often as possible,” Rosenberg said. “I want football back here. I want the band on our field. I want homecoming here.”

The chancellor joked that his injury, which he suffered slipping on stairs, was designed to help him better understand what it was like to be a football player.

“The slogan for our upcoming football season is ‘All in,’” Subbaswamy said, turning to coach Charley Molnar tapping his injured shoulder. “Coach, I’m ‘all in.’”

Molnar said the improved facility would give his program a significant lift.

“This building not only transforms the football program, but it transforms the university. It’s going to put us in the big leagues in terms of college athletics,” Molnar said. “Our basketball program has already been there and what they’re doing with the Champions Center takes them to another level. We’re moving now into the level of big-boy football. We’re going to have a building that’s like everyone else in the neighborhood. It’s going to help us not only recruit, but develop our players in the way they need it.”

The Champions Center, which will be connected to the Mullins Center, will be a 53,000-square-foot facility that will house two practice courts, one each for the men’s and women’s basketball programs. The $28.5 million building will have new locker rooms, a weight room, offices for the coaching staffs and a players lounge. It will also have a “legacy hall” displaying the history of the men’s and women’s programs.

“Obviously it’s an unbelievable addition to the basketball program, UMass athletics and the campus in general. It allows us to stay relevant on a national level, having a first class facility really catapults us into the next 10 years,” men’s coach Derek Kellogg said. “It’s going to give us a wow factor as a program when kids come on campus.”

In addition, it will keep the two programs from having to schedule around each other’s practice times or having to use decaying Curry Hicks Cage for practice when the Mullins Center is being used for hockey or nonsporting events.

The buildings’ names are likely placeholders for now, allowing the school to eventually sell the naming rights to a donor. Both are expected to open in time for the fall in 2014.

Matt Vautour can be reached at mvautour@gazettenet.com. Get UMass coverage delivered in your Facebook news feed at www.facebook.com/GazetteUMassCoverage.