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September 25, 2013

Construction on KU building for Naismith’s basketball rules won’t start until spring

When James Naismith’s original rules of basketball find their permanent home in the DeBruce Center, a new building adjacent to Allen Fieldhouse, KU officials hope they become a destination attraction for generations. So details such as the lighting — and other major design issues — have pushed back the construction of the DeBruce Center to next spring, according KU Endowment president Dale Seuferling.

When you are preparing to house one of the most historic documents in the history of sports, there are certain things you must consider. The lighting, for example. It can’t be too harsh or too low, and it certainly can’t compromise the document.

When James Naismith’s original rules of basketball find their permanent home in the DeBruce Center, a building to be constructed adjacent to Allen Fieldhouse, KU officials hope they become a destination attraction for generations.

So details such as the lighting — and other design issues — have pushed back the construction to next spring, according to KU Endowment president Dale Seuferling.

The KU basketball team, which opens practice Friday, begins its exhibition schedule Oct. 29 against Pittsburg State at the fieldhouse. For KU officials, the idea of starting construction on the three-story, $18 million project during basketball season was impractical.

“It reached the point where you don’t want to start now and have these huge conflicts with the game-day crowds,” Seuferling said.

When KU Endowment announced plans for the DeBruce Center in April, construction was to start this year. But other than a delayed start date, Seuferling said the rest of the project is ready. The financing, which includes a primary donation from Paul and Katherine DeBruce of Mission Hills, is in place. And the general plans haven’t changed.

The new building will be connected to the fieldhouse and the Booth Family Hall of Athletics, while also serving as a student center with dining options and meeting spaces for KU students. But the centerpiece will still be Naismith’s rules, which were purchased by KU alumnus David Booth in late 2010 and donated to KU, where Naismith was the school’s first basketball coach beginning in 1898.

Booth paid $4.3 million to acquire the rules at auction from Sotheby’s in New York. When he offered to donate the artifact to KU, Booth suggested that the school erect a new building to house the document.

Seuferling said the plans and drawings for the building could be unveiled in early 2014. And when construction begins in the spring, KU will have a full summer to get started on the project and prepare for how construction might affect the site next fall.

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