Regents approve $17.5 million KU dorm plan for basketball players

01/15/2014 5:32 PM

01/15/2014 10:17 PM

The Kansas Board of Regents on Wednesday approved a University of Kansas proposal to build a $17.5 million apartment complex that would house as many as 32 of the school’s men’s and women’s basketball players.

The complex, to be located south of Allen Fieldhouse on Naismith Drive, is tentatively scheduled to open for the 2016-17 school year.

KU had requested authorization from the regents to add the project to its current fiscal year 2014 capital improvements campaign. After discussing the proposal Wednesday at a day of meetings in Topeka — including its price tag — the Regents voted 8-1 to approve the project.

Regents vice chairman Kenny Wilk, who previously had expressed concern about the cost, cast the only vote against the proposal.

The complex — known as the Fieldhouse Apartments — will be built in phases, eventually housing approximately 66 Kansas students. Nearly half of the residents will be members of the Kansas men’s and women’s basketball programs.

The project, in part, KU officials say, is an investment in the school’s tradition-rich men’s basketball program, specifically in the area of recruiting. KU basketball players currently live in the Jayhawker Towers apartments, and Kansas coach Bill Self said last week that KU’s current housing setup was far behind its biggest recruiting competitors.

In 2012, the University of Kentucky built the Wildcat Coal Lodge, a $7 million, privately-funded dormitory designed to house the school’s men’s basketball players.

The Fieldhouse Apartments, KU officials say, will be financed by private donors and bonds that will be paid off by revenues from the new complex.

“Everybody will have their own take,” Self said. “But housing, where our student-athletes reside now, is way, way, way, way behind what the competitors would be housing their student-athletes in, in a big way.”

To comply with NCAA rules against exclusive housing for athletes, at least half of the residents of the proposed project will have to be non-athletes. While the cost would be a large investment for a small number of athletes and students, Self thinks the project could help his program in recruiting. In addition, he said the apartments could be built to have better security measures and privacy for some of KU’s more high-profile basketball players.

“In order for us to maintain and even exceed what we’ve been doing, there are certain things that have to be done,” Self said. “Why did we renovate Allen Fieldhouse? Why did we build a practice facility? Why do you renovate offices and locker rooms? Bells and whistles are very, very important, and the one thing that I would say, and we’ve said this all along, ‘Why did we build a new academic center?’ It’s for the benefit, and certainly for the development, of the student-athletes.

“They deserve to have a situation to live in which they can be monitored, in which they can obviously have more security.”

The apartment complex, which would cover 49,500 square feet, would be two to three stories with two wings: one each for two- and four-bedroom apartments.

Each apartment would have a full kitchen, living and dining rooms, and the building would include lounges on each floor, two team meeting rooms, tutoring space and a multipurpose room. Construction is not scheduled to start for another year.

“As we do with all projects,” Kansas associate athletic director Jim Marchiony said, “we have to make sure the financial part is ready to go and then we’ll move forward.”

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