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Utah State busy with construction projects


By Kyle Goon

The Salt Lake Tribune

First published Apr 07 2014 11:32PM
Updated Apr 8, 2014 09:20AM

Logan • As the Utah State campus slowly defrosts from the winter months, the Aggies are taking time in the spring to focus on man-made projects coming into bloom.

Utah State athletic director Scott Barnes may donate much of his March to men’s college basketball, but he’s got a lot of work to do this April and May as the athletic department celebrates the completion of some of its most ambitious construction projects and makes strides toward the next big thing: renovations to Romney Stadium.

In an interview last month, Barnes detailed the department’s progress on its capital projects. One of the biggest is the Wayne Estes Center, the $9.5 million volleyball and basketball facility that will be ceremonially opened on May 14.

The Estes Center is almost complete — Barnes said Utah State athletes will be using it in the latter half of April. The 32,000-square-foot complex includes a regulation volleyball court with seating for 1,400 fans, as well as a training room, a strength and conditioning center, and new offices for several of the school’s coaching staffs.

One of the most eye-popping details may be the entrance: a painstaking tribute to Utah State basketball player Wayne Estes, who was killed in an accident in 1965 at the peak of his college career. The lobby will be flooded with his memorabilia, including a touchscreen monitor that will tell his story, which was a mandate of lead donor Jim Laub.

"It’s everything we wanted," Barnes said. "There’s going to be a tremendous ‘wow’ factor in recruiting, and the functionality is off the charts."

In the works are the Romney Stadium upgrades, which Barnes and his staff have started pursuing with more intent since receiving formal approval from the school’s board of trustees in February.

The athletics department is working on getting funding for the first phase of the project, which would include luxury seating, an updated press box, more concessions and more restroom facilities. To move forward with the next few steps, including forming a more detailed design plan, the department is getting letters of commitment from fans who plan on purchasing the luxury seating.

"We need to continue to improve the fan experience and ultimately grow the stadium as well — those are the main pieces to it," Barnes said. "Before we start digging up dirt, we need commitments in hand."

Having some financial collateral is critical to taking more steps in the project, which Barnes has estimated could cost upwards of $20 million. The department wants to make sure what the building can pay for itself in the end. Potential revenue could also come from selling naming rights to different parts of Romney Stadium.

Ultimately, the vision is to add a second phase that will expand the seating capacity for the stadium. Barnes said ideally Utah State’s football venue could grow from 25,513 to 35,000, though that could be several years down the road.

The Aggies are also planning to formally name one of the school’s projects that has been complete for nearly a year. The strength and conditioning center completed last June will be named the Icon Sports Performance Center to reflect donations from Icon Health and Fitness, a large exercise equipment company started by two Utah State alums. Barnes said the university will hold an open house on April 10 to celebrate the naming.

kgoon@sltrib.com

Twitter: @kylegoon

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