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When it comes to recruiting student-athletes to the University of Wyoming, Athletics Director Tom Burman knows that UW needs that "extra something that sells."
The "extras" that can entice student-athletes to the university are the facilities in UW's respective sports, but also state-of-the-art buildings where they can receive a quality education during their collegiate careers.
"Facilities are the most important element to recruiting student-athletes to the University of Wyoming and hiring and retaining coaches," says Burman, who in recent years has seen a rise in construction of facilities that support both athletics and academics.
Private donations and legislative appropriations have fueled a building boom at UW, including several brand-new facilities with state-of-the-art classrooms and research areas. The result is improved instruction and learning, which lie at the heart of UW's mission. The athletics side of campus also has benefited from private donations and the backing of the Wyoming Legislature.
"Due to our remote location, it is imperative that we have something that ‘sells,' and state-of-the-art facilities do that," Burman says.
The Curtis and Marian Rochelle Athletics Center (RAC) ushered in the first wave of facilities improvements for athletics in 2001. The RAC meets the academic and athletic needs for all 17 UW intercollegiate sports.
Since then the improvements have continued to allow UW athletics to remain competitive in the Mountain West Conference.
Major construction projects the last 10 years have included the Louis S. Madrid Sports Complex for track and field and soccer (opened fall 2006); Indoor Practice Facility for football and soccer (2007); and the latest, the Indoor Tennis Facility (2011) with four new indoor courts.
Upgrades to the 60-year-old War Memorial Stadium have been steady the last few years to make it more eye-appealing and fan friendly. Some of the more noticeable additions include the Jonah Field playing surface and the Wildcatter Stadium Club and Suites that opened to rave reviews for the start of the 2010 football season.
Upgrades to War Memorial Stadium's east side included handicapped seating and other ADA (American with Disabilities Act) compliance improvements, plus upgrades to the concession areas and restrooms. The stadium parking lot on the east side was paved.
Improvements to the UniWyo Sports Complex for volleyball and wrestling included new seating, flooring and lighting.
Burman credits the Wyoming Legislature and private donors for vastly improving UW's facilities.
"The Legislature has been great to UW athletics, and we appreciate their commitment. Without state support, we would not be able to field a Division I program," he says. "Investing in facilities from donors and the Legislature enhances the overall experience for fans and athletes."
Burman says improvements must continue.
"Recruits and parents recognize that we have made progress, but in many of our sports we are still behind and we must continue to invest," he says.
Two facilities are targeted for future improvements: A swimming and diving facility and the Arena-Auditorium. Burman says UW desperately needs a competitive swimming and diving facility, a project that may be at the forefront of future construction.
"We also need to bring our beloved Arena-Auditorium up to the standards for fans, athletes and coaches," he adds. "The AA has not had any substantial investment since it opened 30 years ago. We are working to develop a plan that will allow the AA to be a great facility for the next 30 years."
Burman says smaller facilities enhancement projects include the completing War Memorial Stadium's lower west side and renovating the RAC's training rooms and enhanced meeting areas.
"We would also like to invest in our nationally ranked wrestling program by expanding its training area dramatically," he says.
The Cowboy wrestling team has moved into elite status, having climbed as high as sixth in the nation, according to Intermat and WinMagazine's national polls.
Burman believes that improvement among UW's various athletics teams can be tied to improved facilities.
"I believe the Indoor Practice Facility, War Memorial Stadium upgrades and renovated soccer complex are the primary reasons we finished third in the Mountain West Conference in football and played in the MWC soccer championship match this season," Burman says.