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University of Northern Iowa to plan new sports training facility

CEDAR FALLS - The University of Northern Iowa received permission from the Iowa Board of Regents to begin planning a court sports training facility for the Panthers men's and women's basketball programs, as well as UNI's volleyball team.
UNI

CEDAR FALLS – The University of Northern Iowa received permission from the Iowa Board of Regents to begin planning a court sports training facility for the Panthers men’s and women’s basketball programs, as well as UNI’s volleyball team. The development of this complex will provide a dedicated practice space to these programs that currently share court time at the McLeod Center and UNI’s Wellness and Recreation Center.

With this approval from the Board of Regents, UNI can begin the necessary planning to evaluate potential designs that could be scaled to the size and scope that fundraising efforts permit. This building will be solely financed by private gifts.

This new facility will meet the existing and anticipated future needs of three of UNI’s most visible and successful Missouri Valley Conference athletic programs, providing practice courts, along with locker rooms, a training room and rehabilitation area. UNI and experienced architects will collaborate on potential concepts that align with projected fundraising targets for the project.

“Several UNI alums and donors have recently stepped forward expressing interest in providing financial support for a court sports training facility,” said President Mark Nook. “The enthusiasm for this initiative and the approval of the Regents has brought us to a point where we can proceed with conceptual planning for a court sports training facility. With those commitments in hands, we are excited to move forward.

“Thanks to the generosity of UNI donors, we have already been able to raise over $170 million to date to support academic programs, scholarships and faculty through the Our Tomorrow campaign,” Nook continued. “In total, this historic campaign has raised over $253 million, including investments in iconic spaces on our campus such as the UNI-Dome, the Campanile and the Gallagher-Bluedorn Performing Arts Center. The University of Northern Iowa is committed to the success of all our students and our basketball and volleyball teams deserve a dedicated training facility comparable to or better than our peers in the Missouri Valley Conference.”

All three of the programs that will benefit from this facility are led by head coaches who own the highest victory totals in Missouri Valley Conference history in their respective sports: Ben Jacobson (men’s basketball), Bobbi Petersen (volleyball) and Tanya Warren (women’s basketball). They join UNI football head coach Mark Farley who has registered the most victories in Missouri Valley Football Conference history, giving the Panthers one of the most accomplished quartets of athletic leaders in the nation.

“This is another exciting day for the University of Northern Iowa,” said interim Director of Athletics Bob Bowlsby. “We appreciate the willingness of several loyal Panthers to make this facility a reality in the near future. Whether it’s this project, the UNI-Dome or the new wrestling training facility, now is the time to make or consider increasing your commitment to the future of UNI Athletics.”

Athletics projects financed through private fundraising efforts are not a new concept for UNI Athletics. In the 1970s, plans for the UNI-Dome were unveiled and approximately $7.5 million was privately raised for the construction of the facility that opened in 1976. The $25 million McLeod Center was conceived and constructed with private dollars and opened in 2006. In November 2023, the Iowa Board of Regents granted permission to plan a wrestling training facility, a project that will also be solely financed with private donations.

Since its founding, UNI has adapted to meet the needs of the state of Iowa and the country as a whole. Investments in innovative and transformative programs will power UNI’s enduring spirit of innovation. Direct support for faculty will ensure UNI continues to recruit and retain teacher-scholars who make the university and its students successful.

WHAT THE HEAD COACHES ARE SAYING

BEN JACOBSON
via Panther Athletics

Ben Jacobson – Men’s Basketball
“We have an incredibly passionate, loyal and generous group of donors who have made a very substantial investment in this project. Our players and staff appreciate the continued support of these individuals who have been integral to helping sustain the high standards we have for UNI Basketball. I’m also particularly grateful and excited that we can share this facility with Tanya and Bobbi’s programs. They have been wonderful teammates as we’ve worked together over the years to navigate practice schedules, logistics and so much more. Thank you to our university leadership for continuing to recognize the value and sacrifices all our student-athletes make to showcase our great university.”

Bobbi Petersen – Volleyball
“This truly is a great day to be a Panther! One of the most rewarding parts of my job is witnessing so many of our alumni achieve tremendous personal and professional success long after they’ve left our campus. The lifelong relationships that we have developed with our student-athletes is such a fulfilling part of the role I enjoy at my alma mater. The lessons learned in the classroom and on the court serve as part of the uniquely transformative experience that being a student-athlete at UNI provides. On behalf of our staff, our alums and our current team, I couldn’t be more appreciative of everyone who is working to bring this vision to reality.”

Tanya Warren – Women’s Basketball
“What a tremendous blessing for UNI and our women’s basketball program! Words are inadequate to express my gratitude to our university and our generous donors for continuing to invest in the lives of our student-athletes. Yes, this facility will help us attract more talented individuals to the University of Northern Iowa. Yes, this project will make it more convenient for all three of our programs to train and practice. But more importantly, this facility is another very tangible signal that the University of Northern Iowa is committed to supporting the young men and women who display their passion and pride for the Panthers on a daily basis.”

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