February 8, 2011 7:55:00 AM
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- The University of Alabama women''s basketball program unveiled its newest -- and oldest -- crown jewel on Monday.
A $16M renovation has given Foster Auditorium a face lift and a new life as home to Alabama''s women''s basketball and volleyball teams. The Crimson Tide showed off the historic facility Monday to media members, administrators, and fans. At 1 p.m. Sunday, Alabama will play its first game in the facility when it plays host to the University of Florida.
"We are extremely proud of this project and what we accomplished," Alabama Athletic Director Mal Moore said. "Back in my college days, Foster Auditorium was the place to be. A lot of times, when you are doing projects, you have a vision, but it always ends up turning out better. This building is no exception. Foster Auditorium holds great memories for a lot of people, and the athletic department is really proud to bring this building back to life."
Foster Auditorium was built in 1939 and named for Richard Clarke Foster, president of the university from 1937 to 1941.
Best known as the site of Gov. George Wallace''s infamous "Stand in the School House Door," his attempt to block integration at the University of Alabama in 1963, other noteworthy events happened there before it was used less and less.
Foster Auditorium has a rich athletic tradition. It played host to men''s and women''s basketball games, volleyball games, and gymnastics meets. It was declared a National Historic Landmark in 2005, and in November a dedication ceremony was held for the new Malone-Hood Plaza and Autherine Lucy Clock Tower, which were built at the building''s entrance to commemorate its place in civil rights history. The tower is named for Autherine Lucy Foster, the first black student to enroll at the school. The plaza is named for James Hood and the late Vivian Malone Jones, whose enrollments marked the official end of segregation at the university.
Alabama women''s basketball coach Wendell Hudson, who played basketball at the school, recognizes the history behind Foster. He was the first black athlete at the university.
"I have always said this is what this building should be," Hudson said of his 3,800-seat new home. "It will help us with a home-court advantage. We want opposing teams to dislike coming here. Knowing the history of the building and what happened here, and to see it come into what it is today is something special. We are really looking forward to playing in here, and we are all really excited about Sunday."
The renovations have incorporated the old and the new. Concrete surfaces and bleachers in the upper deck were cleaned and repainted. Parts of the original south wall also are visible. Thirty feet was added to the building to make room for more offices and weight rooms. The women''s locker rooms also were redesigned and now include study areas and high-definition televisions. The teams also have a meeting room with tiered theater seating and a projection screen and new weight and training areas.
A new video scoreboard highlights the on-court amenities, as well as new lighting, new playing surfaces, and a multi-line rigging system that could be used for concerts and other events.
"This building has really superseded my expectations," Hudson said. "I thought it would be a tough combination to keep with the historic feel and make all the necessary updates for it to be functional, but it was all done. I think it is great."