By Isaiah Buchanan, Staff Writer —
UTC’s new Wolford Family Athletics Center was named after UTC alum James “Bucky” Wolford.
Wolford was a star defensive back for the football program and ardent supporter of the university. Wolford was instrumental in helping University of Chattanooga separate from the University of Tennessee system. Wolford had a deep passion for UTC athletics and was the main man behind the scenes pushing for this facility to be built to help move our sports programs further.
The facility is currently in the programming phase, where the decision for what will be in the facility will be made, and this must go through the state. Once the programming phase is complete, they will move forward into the design phase, which is the physical blueprint of the building. In about one year, the construction of the building will begin.
The complex will cost a total of $20 million. UTC has already raised $6.6 million to get the construction of the facility started and then will finish paying the rest of the $13.4 million while construction is underway.
The complex will be 35,000 square feet of new space and 35,000 square feet of renovations to McKenzie Arena. The renovations to McKenzie Arena will include upgrades to the men’s and women’s basketball locker rooms.
A new football locker room will also be added to the McKenzie renovations, along with athletic training space which is “dearly needed”.
The facility will add new offices for coaches. Each individual position of the football team will also have their own room where they can study film with their coaches to be better prepared during games. There will also be a new auditorium that the football team will use to meet before their practices.
“Our issue moving forward is with a third of McKenzie arena being renovated, two-thirds is not,” said Athletic Director and Vice Chancellor, Mark Wharton. “We’re working on a five-year plan to address McKenzie arena”.
These new facilities are going to be crucial for recruiting high caliber athletes to UTC. One of the most important things that high school prospects looks at are the facilities that they will spend a majority of their time in.
“If you’re not renovating or building something then you’re falling behind,” said Wharton.
Facilities are one leg of what Wharton calls the “three-legged”, the others being the scholarship endowment and the annual sports fund.
Facilities are pivotal in the recruiting game. The Wolford Family Athletics center looks to be a great sales pitch and should give UTC an edge over other schools when it comes to landing big time recruits.
“I think athletics is critical to a campus environment,” said Wharton.
This facility will give athletes a better opportunity to have successful careers during their time at UTC. The new complex will help accomplish the vision that Bucky Wolford had in bettering UTC’s sports programs to be as successful as possible and win championships.