Crean, Mitchell to talk at opening of sports facility

More than 30 years after Al McGuire led the Marquette basketball team to a national championship, the center that bears his name will be officially dedicated.

Celebrations of the dedication of the Al McGuire Center are scheduled for 4 p.m. Friday at the sports center. It is open to any interested students, faculty and staff.

Before the ceremony, officials will unveil a 15-foot bronze statue of McGuire to remind visitors of his accomplishments. According to a press release, gifts from players, assistant coaches, trainers and others who worked with McGuire funded the statue.

A celebration program will follow at 4:30 p.m. in the practice gym.

Student athletes from a variety of sports are set to open the main celebration program with a procession. Speakers will include Al McGuire Jr. (McGuire's son), University President the Rev. Robert A. Wild, Director of Athletics Bill Cords, men's basketball head coach Tom Crean and women's basketball head coach Terri Mitchell. According to Ben Tracy, director of university communication, the speakers will discuss McGuire's legacy and how the new center has impacted Marquette and its Ahletic Department.

Cords said he plans to speak of what the new facility means not just to the Athletic Department but also to the university as a whole.

"I think it's a source of pride for our school," Cords said. "It's all for the 4,000 donors to see but its also for the family. We've been given trust. We should work twice as hard and twice as long to reward the trust that's been given to us."

Mitchell said she plans to talk about her and her team's distinctive understanding of the facility and what it means for the future.

"I can give the unique experience of actually competing in the Al McGuire Center," Mitchell said. "All the sports have been able to practice there but no other program has competed there. We have to first hand knowledge of the crowd and the energy of the crowd. It's going to be a great event and it's to let people know that's it's not an end it's a beginning. As we get ready to go to the Big East, as we get ready to lead our teams to better and better things, it's not that the Al McGuire Center means we've arrived; it means it's the beginning of a great future."

As the chaplain of the men's basketball team, the Rev. William Kelly is scheduled to bless both ends of the court and the individual rooms and offices with holy water and incense.

"I was a very dear friend of Al and worked with him years ago," Kelly said. "I feel privileged to do this. It's a good idea to remind our public that we are a Catholic university and that we honor God while we do other things even athletics."

The Wheeler Walk of Champions is also set to take place during the celebration in the main gym. According to Tracy, it will highlight the accomplishments of Marquette's teams throughout history. Jim and Ginny Wheeler provided a large donation to the Al McGuire Center that helped get the Wheeler Walk of Champions project started.

The pep band, the cheerleading squad and the Intensity dance team will be present throughout the event.

A reception is set to follow the celebrations in the practice gym.

"It's going to be a great event to celebrate a wonderful addition to our campus," Tracy said. "We're hoping that a lot of students, faculty and staff turnout because they are certainly welcome."

About 400 major donors are scheduled to have dinner beneath the tent next to building Friday night. The dinner, an invitation-only event, plans to honor the donors for their contributions.

According to Tracy, representatives from the Athletics Advancement Office, the Office of Public Affairs and others organized Friday's festivities.

The Al McGuire Center is a $31 million center with a practice court, strength and conditioning facilities, sports medicine amenities, administrative offices and an academic support center for athletes. The center is able to seat 4,000 people and serves as the home court for women's basketball and volleyball teams and a practice court for the men's basketball team.

Al McGuire headed the men's basketball team from 1964 to 1977, and helped coach Marquette to its first NCAA championship.