The University of Kentucky plans to spend about $4 million to upgrade the men’s basketball program’s practice locker room at the Joe Craft Center, according to a proposal approved by the UK Board of Trustees athletics committee early Friday. It was approved by the full board Friday afternoon.
The upgrades will “renovate and improve the existing player locker and shower space, lounge area, and team meeting room into one multi-functional space,” according to the proposal. It will also include a “supplementation and nutrition fueling station, as well as a hydration station.”
The project will be paid for by private donors, including a $1.5 million gift from UK alumnus Davis Marksbury. UK has legislative approval to spend up to $5 million but said the project will cost closer to $4 million.
Athletics Director Mitch Barnhart said the upgrade is part of a more comprehensive look at the 10-year-old Craft Center, which attaches to the back of the 67-year-old Memorial Coliseum.
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When UK built the Joe Craft Center, there was much discussion about the men’s and women’s basketball homes being mirror images of one another. Federal Title IX laws require parity of athletic opportunities for men and women.
But there are no plans to upgrade the women’s locker room in Memorial Coliseum in a similar fashion, said Guy Ramsey, UK’s director of strategic communications.
“This will separate the two at this time,” he confirmed.
The women’s program likely will benefit from another phase of the feasibility study, which includes possible upgrades at Memorial Coliseum. It likely will take 8-10 months for that study to be completed.
Among the upgrades under consideration is replacement of the stained, dated ceiling tiles at the venue where women’s basketball, volleyball and gymnastics hold their events.
In 2015, Barnhart said he had received multiple letters from fans complaining about the ceiling tiles in the venue. But it’s about more than just popping out and replacing a few tiles.
“It sounds like an easy task, but it will take $1.5 or $2 million to replace ceiling tiles,” Barnhart said at the time.
Other improvements being studied at Memorial Coliseum include updated seating, new video boards and related technology, and creating premium spaces.
A third athletics project being discussed is a $21 million athlete dining facility that would be adjacent to Wildcat Coal Lodge, which houses the men’s basketball team. The new food venue would be used by all athletes on the north side of campus, Ramsey said.
The timing of that project will be dictated by UK’s ability to raise money for it. The earliest UK would begin the project is the end of this year, Ramsey said.
In 2013, the men’s locker room at Rupp Arena, where the team plays, received a $3.1 million upgrade. Most of that was funded by UK sports booster Joe Craft, who also led donations for the Joe Craft Center, the Wildcat Coal Lodge and the new football practice center.