JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (judolphins.com) – Jacksonville University Athletics announced today plans to begin construction of a basketball performance center on campus that will serve as the future home of Jacksonville basketball's day-to-day operations. Construction is set to begin in late spring of 2020 with completion scheduled for summer of 2021.
Senior Vice President and Athletics Director Alex Ricker-Gilbert has prioritized facility upgrades for the intercollegiate programs and the basketball practice facility, which will house both the men's and women's basketball programs, has been at the top of that list. This announcement comes during the 50th Anniversary season of the 1969-70 men's basketball team that brought Jacksonville University to the forefront of the city and achieved national prominence with its run to the Final Four and National Championship game and is a realization of the standard set by that team.
The 26,000 square foot practice facility will feature coaches' offices, weight room, training room and a full court and a half of playing surface which will serve as the new practice venue for both programs. The building will be constructed immediately adjacent to Historic Swisher Gymnasium and will have direct access to the home game venue.
The department has focused fundraising efforts for several years in pursuit of a state-of-the-art venue, aimed at returning Jacksonville basketball to prominence. This brings Jacksonville basketball to a level more consistent with the direction of collegiate basketball in 2019 and allows it to pursue a recruiting base beyond its current pool.
In 2018, JU celebrated the successful completion of its ASPIRE Campaign, the largest, boldest fundraising initiative in the history of Jacksonville University. Thousands of investors believed so much in the university's work and collective potential that $121 million was raised. This unprecedented achievement launched JU into a thrilling new chapter in the school's history. With the help of ASPIRE, JU established the Brooks Rehabilitation College of Healthcare Sciences; completed the 8,600 sq. ft. Jacksonville Lacrosse Center (JLC) and the 11,750 sq. ft. Frisch Welcome Center; introduced new scholarships that connect students with donors who support and encourage them; and enhanced students' residential experience by revitalizing living areas to create more collaborative and engaging spaces on campus.
Additionally, a multi-million-dollar investment was made for improvements to D.B. Milne Field, Historic Swisher Gymnasium, Sessions Stadium, and the Pruitt Softball Complex including an updating of branded graphics throughout the campus. In recent years, Historic Swisher Gymnasium received a new roof, new playing surface, renovated locker rooms and new electronic video boards. Swisher Gym is quickly re-establishing itself as one of the toughest places to play in the ASUN.
Jacksonville has been working with Balfour Beatty, a leading international infrastructure group, to develop this project. Balfour Beatty functions in the UK, US and Hong Kong with 26,000 employees worldwide.
The mission of the Athletic Department is to foster a relationship-driven, student-athlete centered, culture of development for academic, athletic, and social growth. As ambassadors for the University, the department rises collectively and competitively to enhance and elevate the profile of the institution. This performance center is heavily rooted in the desire to improve upon the collegiate experience for our men's and women's basketball programs.
Both programs share a rich history of success. While the women's program's most notable accomplishments have come in the more recent past with an ASUN Championship and NCAA Tournament berth in 2016, coupled with WNIT appearances in 2017 and 2018 the men's program has a history rooted in tradition that spans decades, back to its first NCAA Tournament appearance in 1970 when it captured the hearts of the nation as the first real NCAA Cinderella story.
The 1969-70 men's basketball season stands above all others in Jacksonville Athletics history. With the 50th anniversary of that magical year occurring this season, a multi-faceted celebration is planned throughout the year, culminating in a special event on Feb. 19, 2020. The groundbreaking of this facility will, in part, be a realization of the standard set for this program by that team in 1970.
The team is the winningest in program history, having secured a 27-2 record, including five wins against nationally ranked, Top 15 opponents, four of which came in succession on the road to the NCAA Final Four and National Championship game opposite UCLA. St. Bonaventure and New Mexico State joined UCLA and Jacksonville in College Park, Md. at Cole Field House that year. That Final Four remains to this day the only one to feature three programs that later became commonly referred to as "mid-majors."
The team became the first to be fully inducted into the Jacksonville Athletics Hall of Fame on Oct. 19, and its roster already boasts five Hall of Fame players, including Naismith Basketball Hall of Famer, Artis Gilmore. Head Coach Joe Williams and Assistant Coach Tom Wasdin are former inductees in the Jacksonville Athletics Hall of Fame as well.
At that February event, the 1969-70 men's basketball team, coaches and support staff will welcome fans and benefactors to a special celebration of that season. Additional event details and ticket pricing will become available at a later date. While there, attendees will have the opportunities to view renderings of the new basketball performance center up close and personal.
In total, the men's basketball program has gone on to participate in NCAA Tournament five times, the NIT six times and the CIT twice.