By (Hope Bishop)

Earlier this month, The University of Alabama System Board of Trustees approved a $10-million-dollar plan to build a two-story facility that will house the Adaptive Athletics programs at UA. The facility will include basketball courts, locker rooms, workout facilities, team meeting rooms and study halls. The facility will be on the south side of the UA Rec Center, east of the main entrance, and tentative plans are to start construction in November 2016, with the hope to complete the project 17 months later.

There is one requirement that has to be met before the plans are officially set into action, 50% of the budget must be raised by gifts. At a press conference on Thursday afternoon, adaptive athletics took a huge step towards that goal, with the gift of $3 million dollars given by Mike and Kathy Mouron of Mountain Brook, Alabama.

“When we began to look more into the matter, we were shocked to learn that no university in the country had an arena specifically dedicated to adapted athletes,” Mike Mouron said in a statement released by UA. “What we also quickly learned was that a number of dedicated people on the Alabama campus were already deeply involved in the planning for the arena the best location had been identified, the initial design had been completed by University staff, a preliminary budget had been compiled, and support from key decision-makers had been sought and secured.”

The University of Alabama’s adapted athletics program has come a long way since its beginning in 2003 when the program started with one women’s wheelchair basketball team. Now over 100 students compete in both competitive and non-competitive sports that include men’s and women’s wheelchair basketball, adapted golf, wheelchair tennis, para-rowing, and adapted track and field.

Adapted athletics has won seven national championships since 2010 including: men’s wheelchair basketball in 2013, wheelchair tennis in 2013 and 2015 and women’s wheelchair basketball in 2009, 2010, 2011 and finally again last year in 2015. Additionally, seven University of Alabama student-athletes are set to compete in the 2016 Paralympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

University of Alabama President Dr. Stuart Bell understands the importance of building the facility, and is excited about the opportunity this offers the student-athletes.

“This facility that we are looking at building will allow us to better serve our adaptive student athletes to help them continue that great tradition we have already started of success,” Bell said. “It will also increase the access of students with disabilities to enjoy sports and recreation.”

“To have Alabama graduates who have such heart and passion for serving our students is very special,” Bell said.

Of course, perhaps no one appreciates the gift more than the students involved with the adaptive athletics programs.

“It’s a great accomplishment, we have been working on this since I was a freshman. To finally be able to say it is in the works is very cool,” Caitlin McDermott, a fifth-year senior on the women’s wheelchair basketball team, said.

That team has had great success in the past and this new facility could help the team be even more competitive in the future.

“To be at this point where we know we are going to get our own facility and have our own gym, and our own place to practice is a huge step for our program and for adapted athletics community across the country,” Gardner said. “Because no other school has this yet, for us to be the first is big for Alabama and hopefully it has a ripple effect across the country.”

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Source:: The Crimson White Sports