Before breaking ground on the multimillion dollar building that will bear his name, Jon M. Huntsman Sr. addressed the crowd of roughly 200 Utah athletes, coaches and backers with the following story:
He was having lunch with Rick Majerus and P.J. Carlesimo - as you do - and the three men discussed their varsity college basketball careers.
They totaled up their combined points: Six.
Majerus and Carlesimo found success on the sidelines of the court, while Huntsman went on to become one of college basketball's biggest benefactors, his name planted on some of the most expensive facilities found in Utah.
Huntsman was very much at the forefront of Monday morning's groundbreaking of the Utes' new basketball center, which will cost an estimated $36 million and put both the men's and women's basketball facilities at the head of the Pac-12. The center will house two gyms, a strength and conditioning center, a sports medicine center (for all sports), locker rooms, film rooms, nutrition center, player lounges and serve as the new center of operations for both teams.
"We're not interested in building a facility that allows us to keep up with the rest of the Pac-12," men's hoops coach Larry Krystkowiak said to the audience. "We believe this will set the bar."
Huntsman was not afraid to go further in his assessment: "We think when this facility is completed, it will be the finest basketball facilities in the United States."
The basketball center is the realization of years of dreaming, and a furious attempt to scout the best of the existing facilities. Huntsman said he and university-commissioned officials have spent the better part of the last year flying to different schools and teams to see what's already out there and improve on it.
After shoveling his patch of earth and taking the seat of a construction vehicle to knock out a piece of the wall of the HPER - where the basketball center will go - Krystkowiak said the full force of the project was finally hitting him.
"We've spent a lot of hours working on logistics behind the scenes, but I drove up this morning and saw the big machines, that's when you know that it's on," he said. "It's a lot more touchable than it has been."
But as much as the ceremony was about the new, the flashy, the material, there was a distinct emphasis on the people who have brought the project to fruition.
Krystkowiak ran over his five-minute allotment in his comments, thanking his support staff and the boosters of the university who not only made the construction possible, but who laid a foundation for him to take a 6-win team to a 21-win team this past year.
Women's basketball coach Anthony Levrets echoed that sentiment.
"This athletic department has been successful without these buildings, and I think it has everything to do with the people," Levrets said. "Now you add world-class facilities to those people, and we could have something pretty special here."
The project is slated to wrap up in July of 2015, just soon enough to get some summer workouts in next year.
Another theme of the morning was repaying commitments: Jordan Loveridge, one of Krystkowiak's first big recruits, spoke briefly, and athletic director Chris Hill spoke of him coming to the U. on "blind faith." Krystkowiak also mentioned ex-Ute Jason Washburn, sitting in the audience, as one of the players who didn't transfer out when he took the job. The new center, in part, is a reflection of a paid-off investment a handful of people made when the program hit a low a few years back.
That was a long time ago. In a little more than a year, the program will be moving into an elite facility, and Krystkowiak said he hopes the Utes' on-court accomplishments merit their new home.
"I've joked about it, but it's actually true: There's no excuses," he said. "It's nice to know that we have everything in place, and hopefully we keep that line trending upward."
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