For more than 15 years, Kent State basketball and volleyball coaches have wanted a place to practice outside of the M.A.C. Center.
Their teams will finally get one. Construction on a $1.6 million facility in the M.A.C.C. Annex started Feb. 1 and should be finished before the start of the 2019 volleyball season.
The facility will mean that teams no longer will have to practice at the Rec Center or area high schools when there is another event at the M.A.C.C., such as graduation or a major concert. The gymnastics and wrestling teams also complete in the M.A.C.C., though they have their own practice areas.
“It’s definitely a necessity, and it will be welcomed once it’s here,” women’s basketball coach Todd Starkey said.
The new facility will be located in the M.A.C.C. Annex in a space that currently houses an old office space that was used for architecture classes.
Discussion of the facility started not long after the Flashes’ appearance in the Elite Eight during the 2001-02 season, but the university never found the money for it.
But about a year and a half ago, the athletic department took a proposal to President Beverly Warren, telling her it was essential to the university’s plan to make basketball its No. 1 priority.
“The real driving force for us was three years ago when we developed our strategic plan,” said Casey Cegles, the deputy athletic director of external operations. “Men’s basketball was our vehicle to national distinctiveness.”
Since 2002, the men’s basketball team has a record of 342-194 and has never finished a season below .500. They have won seven Mid-American Conference East titles, three MAC tournament titles and have made three NCAA tournament appearances.
The fundraising began two years ago.
“We approached our National Athletic Development Council (NADC) to get an estimate of what everything would cost,” Cegles said. “This board ultimately helps us decide how we use our money, and helps come up with fundraising techniques and ideas.”
Cegles said he and J Locklier, the associate athletic director and the head of fundraising, will continue raising money to make up the difference. Cegles sid the NADC’s funding is about $760,000 over 10 years.
The facility will include lighting and flooring similar to the M.A.C.C.
“It’s more or less four walls, a court and some hoops,” Cegles said. “That’s really as simple as that project is. It’ll be probably one of the better practice facilities in the conference because it’s new, but also the new camera system.”
Cameras that can be controlled from the scorer’s table will film practice. It will allows more coaches/assistants to be available to help the team.
“That will be significant because right now what we’re having to do is set up the camera in a space where there’s a lot of foot traffic,” Starkey said. “Sometimes it gets bumped, and we have to have a dedicating person up there to control it. There’s also more wear and tear on the high-end cameras from setting them up every day.”
It will also feature some aesthetic updates that will show off the lineage of Kent State athletics.
“We’ll have a main entrance that showcases the history of the basketball and volleyball teams,” Cegles said. “We’re not exactly sure what we’re going to include yet, but we’re thinking of putting MAC championship trophies and nets. It’ll almost be like a hall of fame for both basketball and volleyball.”
Coaches say the facility will provide a better place to practice and easier scheduling.
Men’s basketball coach Rob Senderoff estimated the M.A.C.C. is not available to the team between 50 to 75 days over 12 months.
“During the fall, they were redoing the scoreboard for about five weeks so we weren’t able to use the gym at all,” Senderoff said. “We practiced at the Rec center, but it is not a regulation-sized court.”
The team has to share the Rec floor with other students and community members, and anyone can watch practice.
“Sometimes we’ve gone to local high schools and practiced there when we’ve needed to,” Senderoff said.
Despite the new practice facility, some teams will still practice in the M.A.C.C. Center, with the new practice facility being used as a backup when a scheduling conflict arises.
“We practice almost exclusively in the M.A.C. Center, unless there is something else going on, which is quite common,” Starkey said. “Obviously, the timeline of the practice facility being done before major renovations in the M.A.C. Center is necessary just so we have a place for day-to-day operations.”
The new facility will change the early-season routines of each team, especially the volleyball team’s preseason practices. Currently, the team struggles to practice around summer graduation and the freshmen’s opening convocation, which occurs right before the team’s first games.
“We have to transport equipment either to the Rec or to the Annex for practices there,” volleyball coach Don Gramola said.
With that, some of the players’ majors have made scheduling complicated in the current practice facility.
“We have a number of student-athletes who have been nursing students,” Gramola said. “Their schedules are a little bit tougher to work around with their clinicals and the rotations that they have.”
Gramola said the new practice facility will give them more options for scheduling.
Starkey mentioned the new facility was discussed during his coaching interview before the 2016-17 season.
“Of course that was an encouraging thing,” Starkey said. “I think that has become more of the norm in the conference and especially at the mid-major and “Power 5” level.”
The new practice facility could help attract recruits, coaches say.
“It will put us on par with a lot of our peers,” Senderoff said. “I think two-thirds or more of our conference has a practice facility. Obviously the student-athletes we’re recruiting want the best facilities.”
The other part of the renovations will also include the relocation of the School of Fashion Design studios. The space — which will be adjacent to the Basketball and Volleyball Development Center — will feature new studios and classrooms on the first floor to go long with a new second level. It will also feature a new, two-stop elevator as well as new men’s and women’s restrooms.
Ian Kreider is a sports reporter. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.