The largest single gift in school history will kick off Utah State’s latest big construction project: A $9.5 million basketball and volleyball facility to be named after late Aggies basketball star Wayne Estes.
The school announced Thursday that its long-awaited facilities project will get underway after a $5.25 million lead donation by boosters Jim and Carol Laub. The couple have been behind some of the school’s most ambitious athletic projects in recent years, and the 32,000 square foot Estes Center is expected to continue to help Utah State’s ability to accommodate and attract athletes.
“Carol and I are proud of Utah State University and the many great things it does for the state and beyond,” Jim Laub said in a school news release. “Under the outstanding leadership of USU President Stan Albrecht and Scott Barnes, they have positioned USU for a dynamic and successful future. Carol and I look at this gift as an investment in Utah State University’s future.”
The school is preparing to build the Estes Center where the Harris Center now stands, just west of the Dee Glen Smith Spectrum. It will include a new volleyball venue with room for 1,400 fans, practice space for men’s and women’s basketball, and office space for those teams.
The school is slating the opening of the center for April 2014, and all funding will come from private donations.
“This project had been planned for a couple of years, and in the new conference, we feel very strongly that it’s a big need for our programs,” Barnes recently told The Salt Lake Tribune. “We feel along with our other projects, this will put us in the top tier of the Mountain West.”
The facility will allow the programs more flexibility in scheduling practice and game space in the Spectrum, which had sometimes forced some teams to practice in other spaces, including local high schools. The building also will alleviate cramped office spacing for the athletics department.
The men’s basketball team under Stew Morrill has long been a flagship of the university, recently completing its 14th consecutive 21-win season. But the volleyball team won the WAC last year, and the women’s basketball team finished the regular season as second place in the conference.
The new center is seen as key in helping those programs grow to be competitive in the Mountain West.
“Recruits want to see that you are moving forward as a program and this will go a long way to show them and their families that Utah State is committed to having a first-class athletics program,” volleyball coach Grayson DuBose said in the news release.
The namesake of the facility is Wayne Estes, an All-American basketball player widely considered one of the best athletes to ever play at Utah State. The career record-holder for points per game, free throws made, and points in a season among others, Estes was killed at 21 when he was accidently electrocuted by a downed power line on February 8, 1965.
“I had two idols as a young boy in the 1960s — Mickey Mantle and Wayne Estes,” Laub said in the release. “Like most young boys, I was impressionable and tried to emulate Wayne. I will always remember how hard he worked to be the best he could and also how humble he was with his success. Estes had a huge impact on me during these years, and it is an honor to his legacy that this new facility will bear his name.”
Utah State’s Wayne Estes Center
• New facility will cost $9.5 million to build.
• Will contain basketball practice space, volleyball competition venue.
• Lead gift by Jim and Carol Laub is $5.25 million, the largest single donation in school history.