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Utah State: Aggies celebrate opening of new athletics facility

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Courtesy | USU Utah State's planned layout for the $9.5 million Wayne Estes Center, a basketball and volleyball facility scheduled to open in April 2014.

By Lya Wodraska

The Salt Lake Tribune

First published May 14 2014 05:23PM
Updated May 14, 2014 09:52PM

Logan • The Utah State Aggies remembered one of their best players of the past as they moved into the future with the opening of the Wayne Estes Center on Wednesday.

The $9.7 million, 32,000 square-foot facility will serve as the practice facility for the basketball teams and also serve as volleyball team’s competition arena.

The facility is viewed as crucial for the Aggies as they compete in what men’s basketball coach Stew Morrill called the "arms race," of college athletics.

"You have to have these kinds of facilities to recruit the modern student-athlete," he said.

But even as the Aggies celebrated what they believe will become a symbol of their rise in the MWC, they paid caring tribute to Estes, the former Aggie whose name graces the building.

Estes was an All-American basketball player for the Aggies from 1963-65 and ranks as the third-leading scorer in school history with 2,001 points and is the fourth-leading rebounder with 893.

The star also set several other records before he was tragically killed in an accident following his final game on Feb. 8, 1965.

Estes, who capped his career by scoring 48 points against Denver that night, stopped with some of his friends at the scene of a car accident near campus. As he was walking back to his car, Estes came in contact with a downed high power line and was electrocuted.

He was posthumously given All-American honors by the Associated Press and was indicated into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 1967.

Ron Estes, Wayne’s brother, choked up as he spoke about his brother and the new building that stands near the other athletic facilities but glistens as the sun reflects off the numerous glass windows.

"I don’t know what to say, it’s an amazing thing," he said.

The Aggies hope recruits believe so as well.

The building features a regulation-size competition court with seating for 1,400 fans, a training room, players’ lounge and strength and conditioning court downstairs.

The upstairs level houses the coaches’ offices, film rooms and meeting areas with downtown Logan and the mountains looming outside big windows.

"I’ve asked for a window in my office for several years," quipped Morrill, noting he has 12 windows. "They made up for it."

USU vice president and director of athletics Scott Barnes related the memory of seeing the men’s basketball team going to the Logan rec center to practice because they didn’t have another facility and how coaches would steer recruits away from the coaches’ offices because they were so insufficient.

There won’t be any need to hide the offices any longer.

Barnes called the room above the court the "closing room," because it holds such an enticing view for recruits visiting the facility.

"This absolutely hits the mark," he said of the building.

University president Stan L. Albrecht noted there are more challenges for the Aggies ahead as the program tries to remain competitive with schools that have more funds comparing USU to the ‘little engine that could.’

The project is just one of the latest in a flurry of upgrades for USU athletics, Albrecht noted.

The basketball locker rooms have been upgraded and turf has been replaced in Romney Stadium and the Stan Laub indoor training center was built. The school also completed construction of a 26,000 square-foot strength and conditioning center last year.

Chair back seating will be added to the south end zone this year.

The new facility for the volleyball and basketball team obviously is a point of pride for the school.

"Over the last several years we have built facilities, hired great administrators and coaches and recruited student-athletes to put ourselves in position to compete in all sports," Albrecht said. "What a great journey it has been."

He noted the Aggies aren’t finished — Romney Stadium is due for more upgrades in the future — but the school is pushing forward looking for more success.

Certainly the new facilities seemed to back up his declarations.

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