Building of ‘The Al’ a long time coming

After years of discussion the Marquette athletic department has finally gotten the facelift it has been hoping for.

The Al McGuire Center, the state-of-the-art practice facility which opened in January, is something the athletic department has been thinking about for a while.

"We have had the idea for a practice facility for a long time," Athletic Director Bill Cords said. "Things just didn't come together. Then five years ago when we made a coaching change, a commitment was made that we would bring Marquette basketball back to the level it should be. A practice facility is what it needed."

It was not until after the need for a new facility was recognized that former men's basketball head coach Al McGuire's name was attached to the project. McGuire led Marquette to its only NCAA championship in 1977.

"The thing that triggered it was Al McGuire agreeing to the use of his name," Cords said. "His name would help raise the money. He asked me how much we could raise, and I said, '30 million.' He said, '40 million, easy.' I think if he had lived we could have reached that."

Cords said three people were influential in making the McGuire Center a reality.

"Three people made this happen, (University President the Rev. Robert A) Wild, Tom Crean (and) Al McGuire – without one of the three this building wouldn't be possible, with all three of them it became a reality."

Wild was important in the development of the center because he included it in Marquette's capital campaign along with the Dental School building, Cords said. Likewise, Cords added that Crean was important because he improved the basketball program and made it visible again, making people want to support it again.

The Al McGuire center is more than just a practice facility, though. It is also home to the administrative offices for the athletic department, an academic support center for the student-athletes, the basketball offices, locker rooms, sports medicine, strength and conditioning, a practice court that allows two teams to practice at once and a home court for women's basketball and volleyball.

The main floor will also be home of the Walk of Champions, which will feature Marquette's athletic tradition and the great players and teams in Marquette's history. The Walk of Champions will be partially done in time for Friday's dedication, Cords said.

The McGuire Center has been very beneficial to the athletes, Cords said.

"It provided a great academic support center, which is really important because it is part of our mission," he said. "It's given them a home for women's basketball and volleyball."

The benefits reach beyond the basketball and volleyball teams. The other programs have moved their offices into vacancies left by basketball and volleyball in the Old Gym. Cords said the Old Gym will be renovated as well to further the benefits to the other programs.

However, the benefits of the McGuire Center extend beyond the athletes. It has also been important to the administration.

"It helped the administration because they never had all been together before," Cords said. "Now marketing, the Blue and Gold Fund and everyone are all together and are able to do their jobs better."

The transition into the McGuire Center has been relatively smooth. The administration moved into the building before it was completed, which created a few challenges. Despite the challenges, Cords said the staff was happy to be in the new building and had no complaints.

However, the transition was different for the athletes.

"It was a little harder for the teams, especially volleyball," Cords said.

"It was hard on volleyball because they had to complete their season in the Old Gym, and won't fully know the benefits until the fall."

The McGuire Center has provided the athletic department with what it had been missing.

"It's a tremendous facility for us," Cords said. "It is better than we ever thought it would be."