TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — The University of Alabama is taking a significant step forward in providing its adapted student-athletes with a world-class training facility and competition venue.
UA announced today a $3 million gift commitment from Michael and Kathy Mouron, of Mountain Brook, to help fund the $10 million facility, which was recently approved by the UA System Board of Trustees.
Michael, who holds a bachelor’s of business administration degree from UA, and Kathy, a UA alumna in special education, said their mission to support UA Adapted Athletics’ new facility was accelerated by previous planning by UA President Stuart R. Bell, trustees, and Drs. Brent Hardin and Margaret Stran, director and assistant director of UA Adapted Athletics.
“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.
“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 UA System Board of Trustees recently approved a $10 million budget to construct a two-story facility that will include a game venue for wheelchair basketball, locker rooms, workout/training room, team meeting rooms and study halls.
The facility will be along the south façade of the UA Rec Center, east of the main entrance. Construction tentatively will begin in November. The target date for completion will be roughly 17 months after construction begins.
Per the approval, half of the budget must be raised through private gifts.
“The University and I thank the Mourons for their generous gift toward this project, which will provide state-of-the-art facilities and support for our adapted student-athletes and coaches,” Bell said. “The University of Alabama will be the first school in the country to have an arena dedicated strictly to collegiate adapted athletics.”
The Mourons said their initial interest in supporting the project started after a conversation with men’s wheelchair basketball player Shaun Castle. The couple had been involved in the development of housing for wounded military veterans at Lakeshore Foundation in Birmingham and met Castle while shooting an advertisement.
Castle shared his story of how he was injured and how he’d transitioned to becoming a full-time student-athlete at UA. They immediately began to explore ways to help upon learning the program didn’t have its own courts and training facilities.
“Obviously, we have a tremendous sense of pride in our university, the student-athletes and what Brent and Margaret, through their dedication and vision, have built,” Kathy Mouron said. “This isn’t just a local program – it’s one with worldwide influence. I hope the level of commitment at The University of Alabama will inspire others, both here and across the country, to support adapted athletics.”
The UA Adapted Athletics Program began in 2003 with women’s wheelchair basketball. The program has since grown to include 30 student-athletes in women’s basketball, men’s basketball, wheelchair tennis, para-rowing and adapted golf. More than 100 students participate in the program’s noncompetitive sports options. The program has won seven national championships: four in women’s basketball, one in men’s basketball and two in tennis. More than 20 current and former athletes and coaches are expected to compete in the 2016 Paralympics in Rio.
“An athletics facility of this magnitude changes expectations of athletes with disabilities and adapted athletics in general,” Hardin said, “and increased expectations have a ripple impact on the quality of our program and the resources that we provide to these incredible student-athletes.”
To assist in the construction of the Adapted Athletics Facility with a charitable gift, please contact Leslie Abernathy in the UA Office of Advancement at 205-348-4771 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
The University of Alabama, the state’s oldest and largest public institution of higher education, is a student-centered research university that draws the best and brightest to an academic community committed to providing a premier undergraduate and graduate education. UA is dedicated to achieving excellence in scholarship, collaboration and intellectual engagement; providing public outreach and service to the state of Alabama and the nation; and nurturing a campus environment that fosters collegiality, respect and inclusivity.