TUSCALOOSA, Ala. – University of Alabama Adapted Athletics officially opened the Parker-Haun Tennis Facility, the only collegiate tennis facility in the nation for adapted student-athletes, with a ribbon-cutting ceremony Oct. 1.
Named in recognition of a $500,000 gift from the Parker and Haun families, the new 3,835-square-foot tennis facility is located immediately adjacent to the student recreation courts managed by University Recreation. The space includes locker rooms, restrooms, a trainer’s room and offices for the coaching staff. In addition to the gift from the Parker and Haun families, the facility also received an additional $370,000 in gifts from 21 donors.
“Our champion student-athletes in adapted athletics now have a championship-caliber facility in which to train and compete,” said UA President Stuart R. Bell. “Through the dedicated support of the Parker and Haun families and all who generously donated, our program will continue to set the standard of excellence for collegiate adapted athletics.”
Tim Parker Jr., chairman of Parking Towing Company, the Northport-based barge line, said he often sees student-athletes practicing in the recreation courts during the summer months and realized there was “a need to serve.”
“The University is a big part of our life,” Parker said. “Living in Tuscaloosa, we’re certainly aware of all the good things the University does, not just for the students they educate, but the public service, their involvement in community activities and helping the state of Alabama grow and prosper.”
Brent Hardin, director of UA Adapted Athletics, said a big challenge faced by the program is the lack of visibility many people have when it comes to wheelchair sports.
“Many people don’t realize adapted athletes need the same facilities, equipment, opportunities and resources that other athletes do,” he said. “Once people see our athletes and what we’re doing, they want to get involved. They want to help, and they do, and it makes such a difference.”
Additionally, the new facility will allow the wheelchair tennis program to expand wheelchair tennis clinics hosted for local children and increase awareness of the sport.
“We have grants for clinics in the community before and after our season,” said Hardin. “We are able to put kids in specialized chairs and we teach them about wheelchair tennis.
“We’ll be able to do a much better job of that. We’ll also expand access to other kids with disabilities in the state of Alabama who want to learn about wheelchair tennis.”
According to Charlie Haun, vice chairman and CEO of Parker Towing, these clinics will translate into a recruiting instrument for the University.
“Sports give students involved a broader experience at UA,” Haun said. “I’m a big advocate of the University’s recruiting. This exposure is a big benefit, and hopefully, this facility will be a recruiting tool.”
The Parker-Haun Tennis Facility is just one component of the families’ recent $1 million commitment, which also supports construction of Hewson Hall for the Culverhouse College of Business and the Performing Arts Academic Center for the College of Arts and Sciences.
The University of Alabama, part of The University of Alabama System, is the state’s flagship university. UA shapes a better world through its teaching, research and service. With a global reputation for excellence, UA provides an inclusive, forward-thinking environment and nearly 200 degree programs on a beautiful, student-centered campus. A leader in cutting-edge research, UA advances discovery, creative inquiry and knowledge through more than 30 research centers. As the state’s largest higher education institution, UA drives economic growth in Alabama and beyond.