University continues recreation center plans
UB says plans were not contingent on Nate Oats’ guarantee
UB will continue developing plans for a new recreation center despite the departure of men’s basketball head coach Nate Oats. Oats has been the most outspoken member about a lack of practice space in athletics.
Oats said he wanted his players to have 24/7 access to practice facilities at UB.
He agreed to a new deal through 2024 on March 14 with the guarantee UB would build a new recreation center.
But Oats is now leaving UB two weeks after signing his extension for a head coaching position at the University of Alabama.
The planning for the new facility was not contingent on Oats’ time at UB, university spokesperson John DellaContrada wrote in an email.
Men’s basketball reached new heights since Oats joined the program six years ago. The Bulls won the Mid-American Conference championship for the second-straight season and made the NCAA tournament as a No. 6 seed, the highest in program history. In order to reach the level of top-level mid-major schools the university would need to upgrade its facilities. Oats has been vocal in his want for change and the conversion of Alumni Arena into a private space for athletes.
“They guaranteed to me [the recreation center is] getting done,” Oats said during his press conference after signing his new deal. “They didn’t give me a timeline, but they said it’s getting done. So, you’re The Spectrum, you can put a little pressure on [UB]. The quicker it gets done the quicker we can redo Alumni and our facilities.”
Since opening in 1982, Alumni Arena has been the home of UB’s athletic teams and served as a recreation center on North Campus.
Students can be seen on the 100-level jogging track in Alumni Arena during men’s and women’s basketball practices.
The Ed Wright Practice Facility, also known as the triple gym, is located inside Alumni Arena. According to UB Athletics’ website it is claimed to be a “state-of-the-art practice facility.” Recreation, intramurals and class instructors mainly use the gym for basketball and volleyball.
Oats wanted to change that.
“My guys need to have 24-7 gym access where nobody else has access to that gym,” Oats told The Athletic in January. “So the facilities are not where I want them to be. We need to continue to work to try to get that. We’re the biggest public university in New York, so we’ve got a ton of alumni. There are guys with money out there that want to help. We need them to give the money to get this thing, facilities-wise, where we want to get it to.”
In February 2018, The Spectrum reported there was a new student health and recreation center coming to North Campus.
The location was proposed to be along Lee Road by Lake LaSalle where there are currently unused fields. Since 2005-06, UB has taken $3.50 from each student’s comprehensive fee to fund a new student health center.
When reported, the funds stood close to $2 million. There have been several unsuccessful attempts to relocate Student Health Services to North Campus in the past, mainly running into funding and space issues.
Women’s basketball head coach Felisha Legette-Jack was more hesitant on the topic when asked by The Athletic in December, stating that she doesn’t know if the university will get a recreation center in the next 10 years. Oats shared a similar sentiment on the timeliness of the project to The Spectrum.
“It’s hard, you can’t completely redo locker rooms and all this stuff in one night when it’s still the student recreation center,” Oats said. “Once it’s no longer the student recreation center the space is really large enough to do some serious things that can help the program out. The quicker they get that thing built, which they promise me is getting done, then the quicker we can get our facilities up to the power that I feel our program is.”
Nathaniel Mendelson is the senior sports editor and can be reached at Nathaniel.Mendelson@ubspectrum.com and on Twitter @NateMendelson.