Utah Valley University’s basketball teams have been sharing its gym for years.
Cathy Nixon, who is heading into her 22nd season as UVU women’s basketball head coach, remembers sharing the gym with lions, tigers, bears, the circus, motocross and a large variety of shows and businesses. She even recalls having up to five different UVU sports teams sharing the P.E. gym at once because her team had been displaced for an event being held in the UCCU Center.
But those days will soon be over.
UVU broke ground on a 14,500-square-foot practice facility — the NUVI Basketball Center — for the men’s and women’s basketball teams.
“It’s all about breaking ground. We broke ground when we went from the P.E. building to what was the David O. McKay Events Center, now the UCCU Center,” Nixon said. “We broke ground when we went from unprecedented territory in going from a junior college straight to Division I. When we went into the Great West Athletic Conference, we broke ground. We also broke ground when we went into the West Athletic Conference. But there’s probably never been a more exciting day than today in the history of UVU women’s basketball.”
Located on the south side of the UCCU Center on UVU’s campus, the NUVI Basketball Center was designed by Method Studio and will cost $3.5 million. It includes an 8,000 square feet court space with nine basketball standards and graphics to create a game atmosphere to match the UCCU Center. A mesh wall will separate the court from the 1,900 square feet of strength and condition space. The offices for the men’s and women’s coaches, which make for 3,000 square feet, are on the second level. Outside of the offices is a mezzanine level that overlooks the courts.
UVU men’s head basketball coach Mark Pope, who is heading into his second season with UVU, says the practice facility was a necessary move for the growth of the programs and so student-athletes can “chase big dreams.”
“We are a community right now that is dreaming really, really big to do really, really special things,” Pope said. “And with this building and this program, I think we are heading in exactly the same direction. We are so grateful, so sincerely grateful for everybody’s contribution. The fact that these young men who are here now can look to all of your examples and now will have the opportunity to chase their dreams with every ounce of blood, sweat and tears and 24/7 work. … The fact that they have an opportunity to chase it like that is a genuine gift. You will see incredibly special things come out of this Utah Valley basketball program.”
NUVI executive chair Keith Nellesen was the lead donor for the practice facility. Despite not having kids that play sports, Nellesen has been part of four groundbreakings in the past year, three of which have been practice facilities. But that’s because Nellesen believes sports are essential to connecting the community to the university.
“The thing that connects a community to college is sports,” Nellesen said. “People can say that it’s not, but my belief is it is. There’s only two things that connect us and bring us back: we come back for a sporting event or we come back to bring our kids. That only happens a little at a time. I’ve watch BYU-Idaho transition to no sports and they’ve lost their connection to the community.”
Nellesen said that UVU should have the second practice facility amongst teams in the Western Athletic Conference, which should help in recruiting top players.
“You only get connected to a program if it wins and if it wins championships,” Nellesen said. “That’s what connects you. People don’t get connected to teams that don’t win and win championships. In this day and age, if you want to win and win championships and build a great program, you have to have facilities to go out and recruit the best players to come that they feel they can be developed in and it’s hard to develop them in the P.E. practice gym.”
And the P.E. practice gym will be only a past memory once the NUVI Basketball Center gets started. UVU President Matthew Holland is excited for where the basketball programs are headed and says the WAC is centered around good basketball programs. He is glad that the basketball program has finally found a home for practicing.
“That wasn’t an exaggerated. When (Nixon) says lions and tigers and bears, that is literally what she was facing,” Holland said. “This (UCCU Center) is a shared facility with the county. It is the way we were able to build it. We’re a lower resource institution; that’s kind of how we’ve had to do some things. That means we share it with a lot of different entities and things, so this gives us dedicated space where we can build our dynamic and have the professionalism and get into a rhythm of things. I think besides the recruiting tool just what it will mean in the day to day psyche of our players and our coaches. It’s going to be very significant.”
Other donors for the NUVI Basketball Center include Utah Community Credit Union; Ryan Toolson, former UVU basketball play who now plays in Europe; Workers Compensation Fund; Todd Pedersen, founder and CEO of Vivint; Alexander’s Print Advantage; Travis Hansen, former UVU and NBA basketball player; and Forte Elements.
As of now, UVU does not have a timeline with a start or completion date for the NUVI Basketball Center.