Pam and Les Muma Basketball Center opens

With a ribbon-cutting ceremony Friday, the Pam and Les Muma Basketball Center is officially open.

The new $11 million home of USF basketball opened its doors for the first time and the Bulls’ student-athletes served as tour guides of the new facility, which houses twin practice courts and film, training, locker and weight rooms, as well as player lounges and coaching offices.

The only unfinished aspect of the center is the “environmental graphics” package, which will customize the building with team slogans and photos of players past and present.

“It’s just so wonderful and generous that (the Mumas) were able to make this happen,” USF President Judy Genshaft said. “I feel like I’m one of the luckiest people ever on this campus because, … in our new offices in the Patel Center, I get to look out the window and see the new Pam and Les Muma Basketball Center all the time.”

While designing the new center, USF Athletics administrators went to leading college basketball schools around the country, such as Florida, Syracuse, Duke, Michigan State and Louisville, for inspiration.

Jose Fernandez, head coach of the women’s basketball team, said the Muma Center combines the best aspects of each.

“We went out and looked at some of the best places in the country and took ideas from different venues on what some people did right, what some people did wrong and what we wanted to do, and they did a great job (building),” he said.

That process was reversed two weeks ago when the staff from Notre Dame visited the nearly completed Muma Center for ideas of their own, men’s basketball coach Stan Heath said.

“It’s a big day for us,” he said. “It’s something that I think is going to change the face of USF basketball forever and obviously allow us to compete at the highest level with our teams improving, as well as being able to attract the recruits we need.”

On the east side of the building is the men’s practice gym. The west side is home to the women’s practice court. The second floor houses the coaching offices, with all other features on the ground floor located in between the two gyms.

The new facility has already had a positive effect in the recruiting efforts of both teams.

“We’ve got three commitments now,” Fernandez said. “We’ve never had that before in the time frame before the November signing period. We’ve got a young lady that’s coming in a couple of weeks that (already) committed to Penn State, but is still going to come on a visit.”

When the Sun Dome renovations are completed in 2012, the basketball facilities at USF will stand out on the national scale, Fernandez said.

“It’s definitely a one-two punch,” he said. “It’s going to be one of the top 10 venues in the country, without a doubt.”

The Muma Center is the newest of numerous facilities upgrades around the Athletics District that include the USF Baseball and Softball Stadiums, the USF Soccer Stadium, the Frank Morsani Football Practice Center and the Sun Dome renovations. USF Athletics Director Doug Woolard said no other school in the country has upgraded so many facilities in the time period USF has.

“We talked about this for a long time,” he said. “We talked about all these facilities. This is the most number of facilities, the five that we took on in the last 14 months, that any athletics department in America has taken on in the last 25 years.”

Les Muma said the players have already starting taking to the new building.

“I had one of the players come up to me,” he said. “I won’t mention his name, but it was Gus (Gilchrist). About three weeks ago he said to me, ‘If I could get out of my apartment lease, I would move in here.'”

Heath said his program is poised to rise in the rankings of college basketball with the new practice center

“It’s almost like we’ve been in the ring fighting Mike Tyson with one hand behind our back, fighting with our left hand and trying to win a fight,” he said. “We needed something that gave us equal footing with everybody else. Let me tell you this – this isn’t equal footing. This is a whole other level beyond what anybody ever thought we’d have. This is the crme de la crme.”