Texas Tech basketball soon will have a new home on campus dedicated to growing program athletes’ prowess on the court.
The establishment of the Dustin R. Womble Basketball Center, which is nearing completion west of the United Supermarkets Arena (USA) near the intersection of 18th Street and Indiana Avenue, will bring different amenities aimed at improving the skills of Tech’s basketball players.
The Tech System Board of Regents approved the concept of the Womble center and a Stage I design budget of $750,000, which was set to provide planning and design services for the facility, on Dec. 14, 2017, according to minutes from that day’s meeting. At the time, the facility had an anticipated budget of $23.5 million.
Now with an approved project budget of $29.5 million, according to the Tech System Facilities Planning and Construction (FP&C) website, the Womble center is near completion after being in construction since December 2018.
There are hopes the facility will be fully completed this December, according to a statement from Billy Breedlove, vice chancellor of FP&C. As of now, branding for the facility is ongoing.
“Both teams have practiced on their new courts and worked out in the weight room,” Breedlove said, according to the statement. “This will be one of the top facilities in the country.”
The Tech men’s and women’s basketball programs can take advantage of the Womble center’s different features including two practice courts, two sets of locker rooms, a training area, a nutrition center and a weight room that will be one of the largest in the Big 12 Conference, according to information from FP&C. Film rooms and lounge spaces for both teams are other features that will be included.
Tony Hernandez, deputy athletic director at Tech Athletics, said the center is designed to develop student athletes. He works with FP&C to ensure aspects of the new facility will be acceptable for Tech Athletics and the programs that will utilize it.
The Womble center will be the finest in the country when it opens, Hernandez said.
Regarding hosting celebratory events, such as a ribbon-cutting, after the center is completed, Hernandez said there are not any plans, but there are hopes to later recognize those who supported the center’s establishment.
“We will do something to honor everyone who made this building possible,” he said. “We’re fortunate to know some really great supporters, like Mr. Womble and many others, that helped this project along, and we want to make sure they’re recognized and honored for what they’ve done for us.”
Regardless of any plans for celebration, Hernandez said the facility will elevate both Tech basketball programs.
“Our technology inside of the facility is fantastic,” he said. “Really, it’s just going to be an exceptional home for our men’s and women’s basketball programs.”
Regarding the benefits of different features, Hernandez said a Womble center basketball court, which will be a similar size to the court in the USA, will have seven additional baskets on each of its sides. This will allow for more basketball practice and student athlete development to happen at one time.
Mike Ryan, senior associate athletics director for facilities and event operations at Tech Athletics, said the Womble center will give the student athletes in the basketball programs a place to practice at all times.
“We’ll have access to the courts 24/7 as well as every other area of the building,” he said. “We have a great relationship with the management team at the United Supermarkets Arena. However, they can only put one team on the court at a time.”
The USA houses the main court and a small practice gym, Ryan said. With three Tech Athletics programs currently scheduling times to practice in the USA and the need to give certain student athletes the ability to practice on their own, the Womble center will be beneficial in providing a specialized space just for the basketball programs.
“Each team can practice up to 20 hours a week if they lead up to the season,” he said. “But the players can also take jump shots and shoot free throws and do the things that it takes to be an elite Division I player outside of practice. Currently, with volleyball and both teams in there, there’s times where it’s difficult to find floor space, as the student athletes have time between classes to get shots up.”
For aspects, such as weight rooms, Ryan said the current situation inside the USA is similar to that of the basketball courts.
The volleyball program also utilizes the USA weight room, Ryan said. Although, the strength and conditioning staff have done a great job of scheduling teams for use of the USA weight room.
For the Womble center weight room, Ryan said the men’s and women’s basketball programs will just have to coordinate schedules between themselves.
“The new weight room at the Womble is all new equipment, state-of-the-art equipment,” he said. “But the big thing is just the ease of use of having additional time for student athletes to come in and get their lifts in.”
In addition to weight and training rooms being shared between the two programs, there will be offices in the Womble center for the programs’ coaches, Ryan said. These amenities will be huge benefits all under one roof.
In the strength and conditioning areas at the Womble center, Ryan said there will be an office for a full-time strength coach for both basketball programs. There also will be an office in the center for a full-time men’s basketball athletic trainer and a women’s basketball athletic trainer.
“There was a lot of thought that went into this project from the architect team and the end users: both men’s and women’s basketball,” he said regarding how the entire facility will be useful.
The Womble center will create opportunities in the USA that may not have been possible before both basketball teams began relocating their offices and locker rooms in a different spot, Ryan said. The USA will continue to be home for basketball and a big part of both programs.
“We are extremely grateful with our partnership with the United Supermarkets Arena and consider that management team a part of Athletics,” Ryan said, “and [we] really appreciate all they have done over the last 20 years since the arena opened to do their part in creating time and space for all three of the athletic teams that are in that building.”