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New Utah basketball facility has high 'wow' factor

SALT LAKE CITY — When the University of Utah officials decided to build a new basketball facility for its men’s and women’s programs, they figured they might as well make it the finest in the country.

With the unveiling of the brand-new $36-million Jon M. and Karen Huntsman Basketball Facility, Thursday afternoon, it appears the university may have accomplished that task.

The 101,000-square-foot building, sitting just northeast of the 46-year-old Jon M. Huntsman Center arena, is a sight to behold with glass windows overlooking the Salt Lake Valley and everything a college basketball program would ever need on the inside.

“We went out and looked at some of the best and newest basketball facilities in the United States and we said, ‘Let’s make ours is number one, let’s leave no stone unturned,’’ said Jon Huntsman. “Let’s make sure when the players from the women’s team and men’s team come here, they say, ‘Wow.’’’

Those on hand Thursday were certainly wowed by the new facility. University President David Pershing, athletics director Chris Hill, basketball coaches Larry Krystkowiak and Lynne Roberts along with Jon and Karen Huntsman, all made remarks at the ribbon-cutting ceremony attended by a couple of hundred Utah boosters. Among those in attendance was former Ute all-American Arnie Ferrin, for whom Krystkowiak’s office is named.

“I feel like we just won the national championship and can cut the nets down and celebrate,’’ said Krystkowiak. “I truly feel that the Huntsman Basketball Facility is one of the nicest facilities on the planet.’’

Krystkowiak thanked numerous people for their contributions to the new facility and gave special recognition to Phil Cullen, the team’s director of player development who helped spearheaded the project for the past two years.

Krystkowiak and Roberts each have 935-square foot L-shaped offices that include floor-to-ceiling glass, private balconies, fireplaces and 60-inch televisions that retract into the ceiling. In fact, the space for the men’s and women’s programs are exactly the same with the men on the fourth floor and the women on the third.

The basketball courts for the men and women are identical and the main floor is an exact replica of the Huntsman Center with extra space on the sides. The 700-square foot locker rooms are on level 1 and feature custom lockers, showers along with in-ground hot and cold tubs facing 80-inch TV screens and even a pool table.

The ground floor entrances open into the Kem and Carolyn Garner Legacy Hall, which has numerous images of former great Utah players and teams with balconies overlooking the hall.

Roberts, who took over the women’s program earlier this year, told a story about how the new facility is already helping in recruiting.

She said she was recently in a recruit’s home talking about the virtues of the Ute program and was about to show off the new facilities when the father of the recruit warned his daughter not to take too much stock into things like that.

But after he and his daughter saw everything about the new facility, he said, “forget everything I just said — that place is incredible.’’

Seniors Dani Rodriguez and Brandon Taylor spoke on behalf of the student-athletes for the women’s and men’s programs.

Taylor, who was part of the 6-25 team in 2012, noted how far the Ute program has come and joked that practices will be longer now that the men don’t have to share facilities with the women.

“Thanks for more practice time,’’ he said, joking that instead of two-hour practices, now Kyrstkowiak can run “three, four, five, even seven-hour practices since that’s his favorite number.’’

Taylor concluded his remarks by saying, “it’s not just our sanctuary, now we have a cathedral.’’

Even though they’ve been watching the progress of the new facility for the past year, Ute players only got a tour of the whole place the day before.

“It’s the best facility I’ve ever been in and now we get to practice here,’’ said Jakob Poeltl, who spurned the NBA to return to Utah this year. “It’s just amazing. I don’t know what to say. I’m definitely glad to be back after seeing this place and knowing that we can practically live in here all year.’’

“It’s great,’’ added senior Jordan Loveridge. “It’s amazing to have something like this to call home, even though I only get one season in it, it’s something I can come back to, something that will always be a great memory of Utah basketball.’’

Besides the new basketball facility, the new Sorenson High Performance Center opened earlier in the summer directly west of the new basketball complex. Every Ute program except the football team will use the new strength and conditioning center, which is connected to the basketball facility by a long tunnel.