Friday, September 29, 2006

Renovation of UT arena includes new roof, luxury seats

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. -- The $30 million renovation of the University of Tennessee's basketball arena is under way and scheduled to be completed by next fall, school officials say.

The $13 to $14 million in improvements and additions to Thompson-Boling Arena and $15 million changes to the Pratt Pavilion practice facility are under construction now, according to UT athletic director Mike Hamilton.

"As we enter our 20th year at the arena, we want to make sure we're properly positioned for the next 20 years. This will have a huge impact and will breathe fresh air into our basketball programs," Hamilton said.

Capacity of the arena will fall from 24,535 to an estimated 21,000, Hamilton said. Roof capacity will be increased to allow for the hanging of a $2.5 million, four-screen scoreboard over midcourt.

Other changes to the arena include 32 suites, all of which have been sold out. Half of the suites will have 16 seats each and cost $50,000 a year. The rest will be $35,000-a-year suites with 10 seats.

Beneath the skybox suites is the addition of 140 club-style seats, which are larger and have access to a small lounge behind the section. Those seats, also sold out, are $4,000 per year.

Officials are also considering replacing the facility's orange seats with black seats -- a proposal some fans are against because orange is the school color. Hamilton said the seats might be changed if enough money is left over after making other updates.

Lady Vols basketball coach Pat Summitt said she trusts the research the athletic administration has done on the pending project but admits she's partial to orange.

"I'd like for it to be orange (seating)," Summitt said. "When you walk into that building, I think the orange is intimidating."

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Leslie begs off Team USA; Ford, Parker, Snow added

DURHAM, North Carolina - On a day when Cheryl Ford, Michelle Snow and Candace Parker were named to the 2006 Women's World Championship team, the main focus was on who is not going to Brazil.

WNBA MVP Lisa Leslie announced Wednesday she has withdrawn for personal reasons and will not play in the tournament later this month.

Leslie, 34, is a three-time Olympic and two-time World Championship gold medalist. In collecting her third MVP award, the star center of the Los Angeles Sparks averaged 20.0 points and 9.5 rebounds this season, leading the WNBA in double-doubles (17) and defensive rebounds (240).

The Los Angeles Daily News reported last week that Leslie wants to remain near the side of her uncle, Craig Simpson, who is recovering from a recent car accident.

"I really wish I could be there to help my teammates win gold at the World Championship," Leslie said. "I've been playing for USA Basketball since 1989 and I will really miss it this year. However, with everything going on right now with two close members of my family, I have to put my family first."

"Obviously it's a big disappointment that Lisa won't be with us," said Team USA coach Anne Donovan of the Seattle Storm. "Our hearts go out to Lisa and her family and we hope that her uncle recovers fully and that Lisa, emotionally, gets better and stronger every day. She will definitely be missed on this World Championship team."

Ford will be called on to pick up the slack in the paint in Leslie's absence. A three-time WNBA All-Star and the daughter of former NBA star Karl Malone, she averaged 13.8 points and 11.3 rebounds for the Detroit Shock and helped them advance to the WNBA Finals.

Snow, a 6-5 center who averaged 13.0 points and 7.9 rebounds for the Houston Comets, will help Ford in the middle. Parker, a 6-4 forward at Tennessee, is the lone college player on the roster.

"Michelle Snow and Candace Parker have both done a great job for us here in camp and both trained with us in the spring," Donovan said. "They've been working hard to fill the void that we have in the post and both will be good additions to this team in our quest to win another gold medal.

"Cheryl Ford has proved all season long what a great player she is. It is unfortunate that we were unable to have her in our spring training period, but we feel real confident that she'll be able to help us when we get to Sao Paulo."

In addition to Ford, Parker and Snow, previously named to the 2006 USA World Championship Team were Seimone Augustus of the Minnesota Lynx, Alana Beard and DeLisha Milton-Jones of the Washington Mystics, Sue Bird of Seattle, Tamika Catchings of the Indiana Fever), Katie Smith of Detroit, Sheryl Swoopes and Tina Thompson of the Houston Comets and Diana Taurasi of the Phoenix Mercury.

The Americans will play an exhibition game here against Australia on Thursday before heading to Brazil. The tournament begins Tuesday and runs through September 23.

Team USA captured its record seventh gold medal and second straight gold at the 2002 World Championships in China.

Friday, September 01, 2006

Pat and R.B.

Pat Summitt, the super coach of the UT Lady Vols basketball team, quietly separated from R.B., her husband of 26 years, earlier this year. No divorce papers have been filed in Knox County courts. A spokeswoman confirmed the split but would not comment.