Twenty-five years ago, the Nevada athletics department made the most significant advancement of its history: the jump to NCAA Division I-A and major college athletics.
That move set the stage for new and greater heights in the progression of Wolf Pack Athletics and success would soon follow — highlighted by championship football teams in the mid-1990s during Nevada’s days in the Big West Conference.
Dominance in the Big West gave way to another move, as Nevada jumped to the Western Athletic Conference. Again, success followed the move, as the golden era of Wolf Pack men’s basketball followed with Nevada reaching the Sweet 16 as part of four straight trips to the NCAA Tournament, and then the Dream Team in football, the Colin Kaepernick-led 2010 football team that finished No. 11 in the nation.
Each time Nevada has made a step up, the program has been able to invest and build and grow into a champion.
As the Wolf Pack just finished year four in the Mountain West Conference, the steepest challenge yet has been defined. To continue to strive for success, Nevada must invest in new facilities to attract the best and brightest student-athletes to compete and succeed within one of the toughest conferences in the nation.
The projects outlined for the Wolf Pack’s needs are wide-ranging and will have a direct impact, not just for all of the department’s 400 student-athletes and 16 intercollegiate sports, but also for the northern Nevada community it serves.
“One of the key facets of our mission statement is providing opportunities for achievement,” said athletics director Doug Knuth. “The projects we’ve outlined in this campaign speak directly to that — providing the facilities necessary to give our students the opportunity to achieve and succeed.”
The Field House would bring to reality the indoor practice facility that would serve a number of sports, especially the football program. Nevada’s football team, which has played in a bowl game 10 out of the last 11 years, is the only major college football program in a cold-weather region that does not have such a facility.
The building would not only serve virtually all of Nevada’s sports program as a year-round training facility, but would also function as an indoor intramural complex available to all 20,000 students on the University campus.
“In terms of impact, the Field House will have direct usage by our entire department as well as large portions of the campus community,” Knuth said. “An indoor facility changes the complexion of our facilities.”
As the University opens a new student recreation facility — the E.L. Wiegand Fitness Center — in 2017, the athletics department takes over the bulk of the current Lombardi Recreation Center with sights set on practice facilities for its basketball programs and larger strength and conditioning spaces as well as locker rooms for all student-athletes.
“We have sports programs that don’t have a locker room space to call their own,” Knuth said. “Our current weight room facility is something that we’ve simply outgrown and Lombardi will give us the space to stay current with cutting-edge equipment and technology. We are fortunate to be able to take over much of that building and not have to build from the ground up. But those renovations do come with a cost.”
The planned Champions Plaza reimagines the entrance to Mackay Stadium and celebrates the great players, teams and championships in Wolf Pack history. It would create a grand entrance at the north end of Mackay and connect Nevada’s storied past with the present and future of Wolf Pack athletics.
One of the projects that would be unique to Nevada is a stand-alone rifle facility. Projected to be built off-campus, the facility would not only be home to the Wolf Pack’s coed rifle team, it would also serve as training grounds for law enforcement and could also be a revenue source for the athletics department.
Other facilities include the developed of a natural grass soccer field combined with a wrap-around track. The Pack’s diamond sports, both of which finished in the top three in the Mountain West standings this season, are also in need of revamped facilities.
Prior to the current renovations of the 50-year-old Mackay Stadium, the last major building project for Wolf Pack Athletics was the construction of the 8,000-square foot Marguerite Wattis Petersen Academic Center in 2008. The facility helps provide resources as well as study space and times to better fit the schedules of student-athletes.
In the years since the building’s opening, Nevada has seen the graduation rate of its student-athletes rise to the current high-water mark of 80 percent. In Spring and Winter Commencement ceremonies this past year, a record 98 student-athletes earned degrees from Nevada. Overall, Pack student-athletes boast a cumulative grade-point average above 3.0.
“What we’ve seen historically is that facility additions prove to be game changers for our department,” Knuth said. “This campaign focuses on the needs of our program, some of which are overdue. These projects have the potential to change the arc of our program and raise the bar on achievement by our student-athletes.”
For more information on Wolf Pack Athletics and the capital campaign, please email WolfPack@unr.edu or call Lisa Anderson at 775-250-5251 or Mo Kachurak at 775-830-2558.
Tiffiany Howard, a UNLV professor and recent Congressional Black Caucus Foundation senior research fellow, is the lead author of the study aimed at identifying ways banks can help support and invest in Black entrepreneurs.