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UAB Blazers Indoor Practice Facility Was Nearly Reality: What Happened?

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We've been given access to one set of blueprints for the proposed indoor practice facility for UAB football. Why didn't it get to see the light of day?

When Bill Clark left Jacksonville State in January 2014 to take over UAB, he was led to believe facility upgrades were on the way. Clark felt he could take UAB to the C-USA championship with a few program advancements, and the main thing he was looking for was a new practice facility. Apparently UAB President Ray Watts & Athletic Director Brian Mackin led Clark to believe the facility and program support as a whole would be a reality.

The practice fields for the Blazers were possibly the worst asset of the Blazer program. The team had to frequently travel to city-owned Legion Field, Samford, or Birmingham-Southern for practice when it rained. The fields held water and the Blazers even had injuries occur as a result of the condition of the fields. The last one was a defensive back referenced by Bill Clark leading up to the season finale at Southern Miss.

So Bill Clark began working on a potential indoor facility under the impression that funds were on the way. Take a look at some of the blueprints for the facility that sat on Bill Clark's desk.

uabpracticefacility

uabpractice2

Clark would go on to work with companies in designing what the new facility was to include. Within that blue print is an estimated cost of around $8.8 million, which most projected would rise to around $10 million dollars in final costs.

That cost would not include the land for the facility, as UAB already owned the proposed spot for the facility. The project would include new coach's offices and storage areas to go along with the practice area. A close model of what the Blazer's facility was to look like was the facility that Louisiana Lafayette had built in the Sun Belt. Below is a list of part of the projected costs of the total project.

Item Cost
Basic Practice Facility: $5,316,858
Football admin building, storage, etc: $2,400,000
(16,000 SF @$150)
Contingency 5% $385,843
Professional Services 10% $771,686
Total $8,874,387

Local Construction Manager and UAB supporter Paul Ensign helped Clark with the project. Ensign would donate his personal time to the project and did so as a favor to the program, and he agreed to talk with me about his involvement.

We started mid- June 2014 working along with a regional architect and over the next few months developed a schematic plan and budget for a full length practice facility with storage areas, toilets, observation deck, coaches offices, meeting rooms, and film rooms.

We were led to believe the University wanted these estimates to better improve football rather than to use it as a reason to eliminate it. In fact, Coach Clark indicated to me that that President Watts would come up with half of the funding from the Capitol Campaign if we (donors) raised the other half.

It is clear from many who are close to Clark that he was made to believe that the university would match donations dollar for dollar by Ray Watts. If that is true, then $5 million was what he needed to raise to get the facility built. As rumors started to swirl surrounding the future of the program, another idea was presented that would have meant that UAB didn't have to give one single penny to get the indoor practice facility built.

In October 2014, the formation of the UAB Football Foundation was announced. The foundation was led by Jimmy Fuller and other prominent Birmingham business people in their efforts to raise money for UAB football. The foundation's first goal was to set its eyes on a state-of-the-art indoor practice facility.

Birmingham mayor William Bell jumped on board with the building of the practice facility as well. Bell and the city council were in talks with the UAB Football Foundation to build the facility. Bell stated the following in an article written by the Birmingham Business Journal about what UAB needed to provide to get the facility built.

"There have been some private entities that want to support UAB football, and they have come to me if the city would be supportive of such an endeavor. We gave them a preliminary "yes" that we would be supportive, but it would be outside of the realm of the administration of UAB itself. The only thing we would ask of UAB is probably to provide the land."

Land which, according to the above blueprints, UAB already has. The money the Carr Reports claims UAB had to raise to be competitive reflects the $10 million for the practice facility. It does not reflect that the money and backing  was pledged before the program was shut down.