August 25, 2009 12:35:00 PM
STARKVILLE -- Paul "Buzzy" Mize of the Henry Mize Foundation said the Humphrey Coliseum is getting a front door.
That door that door will give the Mississippi State men''s and women''s basketball teams a new opportunity to improve their programs.
The Mize Foundation has provided the lead gift of $4 million toward plans for a $11.2 million indoor basketball practice facility that were announced Monday afternoon.
Preliminary construction begins today, and The Mize Foundation will have the naming rights, which will be finalized later.
"Without the Mize Foundation, none of this would be possible," MSU Athletic Director Greg Byrne said. "They are showing their commitment to Mississippi State University and the basketball program by making this happen.
"Mississippi State basketball is important to the Mize Foundation. It''s been an absolute anchor for our university in many aspects."
Mize recalled many memories he has had of the Bulldogs and Lady Bulldogs. He said the commitment to a practice facility wasn''t entered into lightly.
"It''s been a long process, but one I am happy to have finished and am very glad to have gone through it," Mize said. "We have performed a great deal of due diligence in looking at how it should be financed, what''s the best way to put it together, and what is the best type of facility to build. You can rest assured every option has been explored."
The facility will be 57,611 square feet, with 23,500 square feet of court space. It is expected to be one of the largest in the Southeastern Conference. There will be 5,000 square feet of reception space that can be used for pregame functions and to host recruits.
There will be two regulation-sized courts length wise with four high school size cross courts and a retractable wall to separate men''s and women''s courts.
There also will be a weight room, a training room, offices for men''s and women''s coaches, and an 84-space parking garage.
Byrne said all of the funding for the facility has been secured. The Bulldog Club will finance part of the construction, the Mize family will provide some of the money up front, and the remaining balance will be from a private loan of approximately $6 million that will be paid off in the next several years.
Along with the Mize family, Byrne recognized MSU President Dr. Mark Keenum, men''s basketball coach Rick Stansbury, women''s basketball coach Sharon Fanning, John Rush and Bo Hemphill of the Mississippi State University Foundation, and Wesley Reed and Scott Stricklin from the athletic department for their help and support.
Stansbury said the facility is something the school "desperately needed" to continue its quest to compete for championships.
With Humphrey Coliseum being a multi-purpose facility, it''s used for many types of university and city functions. The basketball teams often were left trying to find other places for practices and on-the-court conditioning.
Fanning calls the practice facility "a blessing" and said the team won''t have to worry about getting out in bad weather to go from one place to another.
"There''s not one area that it''s not going to enhance and what we can do to help their skill development and our staff development," Fanning said.
Stansbury said since the season was over in March, the men''s team hasn''t been able to get back on the court until early Monday morning.
With the new practice facility, Stansbury said that no longer would be an issue.
"I will promise you that having this facility will give our kids somewhere to go," Stansbury said. "It''s tough to find a place to play in private, so this is a tremendous help to us all."
Byrne and Mize said the facility also will be a place where former players, who go on to play professionally, can come back and use to train in the offseason.
It will be a place where senior center Jarvis Varnado might be able to use in the future, but he is excited about what it means for the future of the program.
"It''s going to be a huge boost because you''ll get a lot of top recruits in with a new practice facility," Varnado said. "You don''t have to worry about going over to the Sanderson and if you are going to get in or not. You''ve got your own court where you can take advantage of it."
Byrne said conversations about a potential practice facility began with the Mize Foundation three years ago, and it became a priority as talks continued between Byrne, Stansbury, and Fanning. They even toured facilities at Vanderbilt, Tennessee, and Florida to get an idea of which direction to go.
It was important for Byrne to get ideas and to form their own to create a building that "from a functionality standpoint, day in and day out, it''s as good as you could possibly want."
Since Byrne took over as athletic director, he has emphasized the importance of moving forward, and he sees this as another way to make that happen.
"We can''t ever just rest on our laurels," Byrne said. "We look to see what our next steps are to continue to improve and make ourselves better.
"This facility is a key component to continue to have the type of success in men''s and women''s basketball and to allow us to grow and take it to another level to gain exposure for Mississippi State."
The general contractor for the project is JESCO, of Tupelo, and Fulton. It''s based on the designs by Foil Wyatt Architects, of Jackson.
A ground-breaking is set for the fall, and a ribbon-cutting ceremony is planned when the construction is complete in more than a year.