Here come the Rebels: Mendenhall Center puts UNLV on par with Duke, other national powers

The $11.7 million facility will have its grand opening Thursday afternoon, giving Rebels’ program a major boost

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Christopher DeVargas

A peek inside the new Mendenhall Center, the Runnin’ Rebels’ new training facility, on Jan. 17, 2012.

The Rebel Room

Rebels hit the century mark against TCU

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Las Vegas Sun reporters Taylor Bern and Ray Brewer break down the UNLV basketball team's 101-78 victory against TCU and look ahead to the Rebels' big home game Saturday against New Mexico.

The UNLV basketball team is reaching a new level, and it has nothing to do with its 17-3 start to the season and No. 14 national ranking.

The grand opening of the $11.7 million Mendenhall Center, the program's new state-of-the-art facility, is this afternoon, A public open house is scheduled from 1 to 3 p.m. Jan. 28.

The team awaits final inspections before settling in to its new digs, but coach Dave Rice said the building is already paying dividends on the recruiting trail. The facility was completely funded by donors.

“We’re so grateful to the generous donors who made it possible,” Rice said. “It makes a huge difference in recruiting, certainly a lot of the guys we’ve signed, that was a big factor in their signing.”

Mendenhall is attached to the south side of the Cox Pavilion, next to the Thomas & Mack Center. It’s a one-stop basketball shop and the first place recruits will visit when they’re on campus. That’s exactly what then-UNLV coach Lon Kruger had in mind when he started the process of securing funding and helping design the facility.

“When recruits come to campus, that facility is maybe as important as the playing arena itself, because players spend so much time there,” Kruger said from his office at Oklahoma. “Anytime players are on campus and not in class, they’ll spend their time there. They’ve got computers, courts available to shoot at any time, weight room; hugely important from a day-to-day standpoint but also very important in the recruiting process.”

UNLV’s facilities are now on par with the best in the country. For a comparison, here’s a look at some area rivals and national powers.

    • A view of the new Mendenhall Center, the Runnin' Rebels' new training facility, Tuesday Jan. 17, 2012.

      A view of the new Mendenhall Center, the Runnin' Rebels' new training facility, Tuesday Jan. 17, 2012.

      UNLV — The Mendenhall Center

      Square feet: 38,000

      Opened in: 2012

      Cost: $11.7 million

      Highlights: Two full-size practice courts, academic resource space, film room, weight and conditioning room

      With a swipe of a key card 24 hours a day, Rebels players will have access to two full-size practice courts, a training area, a weight room and study space, among other things.

      The three-level structure gives the program the full-service facilities to match their resurgent play on the court this season.

      The players have a new place to call home, and the coaches now have first-class facilities to sell to potential recruits. For Rebels fans, this is the latest reason to believe that the glory days are back.

    • A look at the basketball practice facility at Duke's Michael W. Krzyzewski Center.

      A look at the basketball practice facility at Duke's Michael W. Krzyzewski Center.

      Duke — Michael W. Krzyzewski Center

      Square feet: 56,000

      Opened in: 2008

      Cost: $15.2 million

      Highlights: Two full-size practice courts, team and individual video rooms, weight and conditioning room, academic resource space

      Around the time the rumors about Duke men’s basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski leaving for the Los Angeles Lakers got louder, the university got serious about getting a new practice facility. The Blue Devils broke ground in 2006 and had their dedication ceremony in spring 2008.

      The center is the primary home for both basketball programs, but it also serves as the academic hub for all 26 intercollegiate sports at Duke. The practice courts are near replicas of Coach K Court at Cameron Indoor Stadium, and adjacent hoops give the facility 12 total baskets.

      A unique aspect is a legends locker room, where former Duke greats can train while they’re in Durham.

    • A look at the exterior of the Lawlor Events Center at the University of Nevada, Reno.

      A look at the exterior of the Lawlor Events Center at the University of Nevada, Reno.

      UNR — The Lawlor Events Center

      Square feet: 201,400

      Opened in: 1983

      Cost: $26 million

      Highlights: Home arena for men’s and women’s basketball, several upgrades in the 28 years since it opened

      The Wolf Pack practice primarily on their home court at the Lawlor Events Center,, with conflicts sending them to the volleyball team’s Virginia Street Gym, formerly known as the Old Gym. Upgrades at Lawlor through the years have included a digital scoreboard, new playing surface and general building upkeep.

      There has been talk through the years of adding a basketball facility. In 2007, the Nevada Board of Regents extended coach Mark Fox’s contract through the 2013-14 season.

      “We also talked about providing more academic support for our student-athletes and the possibility of building a practice facility,” Athletic Director Cary Groth said at the time.

      The Marguerite Wattis Petersen Academic Center was opened in 2008, but Fox left in 2009, and there are no current plans for a basketball facility.

    • A look at the players' lounge at the University of Illinois' Ubben Basketball Complex. Former UNLV coach Lon Kruger, who coached previously at Illinois before his stint with the Rebels, used this facility as inspiration when organizing the development and funding of UNLV's Mendenhall Center. The center opens this month.

      A look at the players' lounge at the University of Illinois' Ubben Basketball Complex. Former UNLV coach Lon Kruger, who coached previously at Illinois before his stint with the Rebels, used this facility as inspiration when organizing the development and funding of UNLV's Mendenhall Center. The center opens this month.

      Illinois — Richard T. Ubben Basketball Complex

      Square feet: 40,000

      Opened in: 1998

      Cost: $5.5 million

      Highlights: Players’ lounge, academic resource space, men’s and women’s practice courts, strength and conditioning space

      When then-UNLV coach Lon Kruger met with fundraisers about what he thought the program needed in a practice facility, this is what he had in mind. The Ubben Basketball Complex opened in the middle of Kruger’s four-year stay at Illinois and is still regarded as one of the best in the country.

      Ubben, which houses both basketball programs, is connected via a tunnel to Assembly Hall, the Illini home gym. From the practice gym to the study space to the lounge, there isn’t much need for Illinois’ basketball players to leave Ubben except for class.

    • A look at the locker rooms inside ASU's Weatherup Center, the newly built basketball practice facility at Arizona State.

      A look at the locker rooms inside ASU's Weatherup Center, the newly built basketball practice facility at Arizona State.

      ASU — The Weatherup Center

      Square feet: 49,000

      Opened in: 2009

      Cost: $22 million

      Highlights: Two full-size practice courts, team video room, coaches offices, academic resource space

      The court logos needed an update after realignment changed the conference name to Pac-12, but everything is at the Weatherup Center is up to date. And that includes its sustainability.

      In October, the facility received the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED Gold Certification. Nearly 50 percent of the building is powered by green power, thanks mostly to a photovoltaic (solar power) system on the roof. Other green features include staggered masonry planes that allow indirect natural light onto the practice courts and wood elements (courts, doors, etc.) from managed forests.

      The facility, which houses both basketball programs, features locker rooms, strength and training space and study areas.

    • A look at the basketball practice facility at Louisville's  KFC Yum! Center.

      A look at the basketball practice facility at Louisville's KFC Yum! Center.

      Louisville — The Yum! Center

      Square feet: 86,500

      Opened in: 2007

      Cost: $15.2 million

      Highlights: Two full-size practice courts, treatment and rehabilitation areas, weight and cardio spaces, news conference areas

      Not to be confused with the KFC Yum! Center — the Cardinals’ home arena since 2010 — the Yum! Center is the training facility for men’s basketball, women’s volleyball and women’s lacrosse. In addition to practice and training areas for all three sports, it also houses their administration offices.

      The first floor is primarily for student-athletes, and administrative areas are clustered around the second floor with views down to the practice courts.

    • UNLV takes on San Diego State Saturday, Jan. 14, 2012 at Viejas Arena in San Diego. San Diego State won the Mountain West Conference opener 69-67.

      UNLV takes on San Diego State Saturday, Jan. 14, 2012 at Viejas Arena in San Diego. San Diego State won the Mountain West Conference opener 69-67.

      SDSU — Viejas Arena

      Square feet: 154,000

      Opened in: 1997

      Cost: $29 million

      Highlights: Home arena for men’s and women’s basketball, upgrades include a $1.2 million scoreboard

      During the Aztecs’ memorable 2011 season, Mark Zeigler of the San Diego Union Tribune wrote a story about four disadvantages the program faces in sustaining that success. Here’s an excerpt:

      “They practice at Viejas Arena when there isn’t a concert or other event there. Then they’re shipped off to Peterson Gym or, as a last resort, the student rec center with its short courts and din from adjacent pickup games.

      Peterson Gym turns 50 next year and is so cold in winter months that players wear long sleeves and running tights. It’s an echo chamber, so much that it’s difficult to clearly hear a coach talking more than a few feet away. The floor is sometimes too slippery to safely use.

      A new basketball practice facility has been broached under various athletic department administrations but was bumped down the list of priorities as the state budget crisis worsened. There are no active plans to build one.”

    Taylor Bern can be reached at 948-7844 or [email protected]. Follow Taylor on Twitter at twitter.com/taylorbern.

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    Previous Discussion: 25 comments so far…

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    1. Floors like Ice two feet thick. Cool.

    2. It was completely privately funded. Academics? At UNLV ha, it is a basketball school with a few kids graduating each year with worthless hotel management and business degrees. GO Rebs!

    3. "We're so grateful to the generous donors who made it possible," Rice said. " Do you people even read the article or do you just have poor comprehension ?

    4. Not one tax dollar went into the Mendenhall Center. It was completely privately funded, mostly by the Mendenhalls who have been long time UNLV supporters.

    5. Civic Support for the University anywhere is a great gift. The News attention UNLV garners for Las Vegas without "CASINO" attached to it, is priceless when recruiting new Educated Citizen. The Type that are literate, unlike many posters on this Blog.

    6. Some people look for anything to complain about.

    7. @Mike, ditto. Nothing good can come or go from UNLV apparently. Las Vegas as a whole must stay crappy, nothing good can ever happen, etc, etc.

      Take your prozac, a deep breathe, and watch an entertaining basketball game. You may just enjoy it.

    8. Built with 100% private money. Educate yourself before you whine.

      Go UNLV (academics), go UNLV (athletics), go UNLV (arts), go Rebels, and go Las Vegas!

    9. UNLV can build the grandest facility in the world,they will still be the laughing stock of amateur athletes, for a host of resons.Thier new facility may compare with Duke and other universities but make no mistake about it they are not in that tier of universities and never will be. Some of the donors would be better suited to use thier donations for improving thier businesses.Build what they may it really is laughable that UNLV cuts programs,eliminates professors, and refuses to grow the academics in pursuit of basketball, that pretty much says it all.

    10. Especially last nights game. Dang that was fun to watch, felt like the old days.

    11. To Robo, Jerry, Matt..and any other whiners,
      Not a dime came out of your pocket. So unless you want to pony up and contribute to something positive, pipe down.
      Whether or not their money comes from the government, to build the roads that YOU all drive on, they alone can choose where to spend it. At least they did something that will have a positive impact on the community, unlike the hot air your blowing. I'm convinced that some people just can't make it through the day without spouting off something negative. You must be so fulfilled in your life.

    12. Whenever anyone mentions a building project, the shut-ins "come out" in force to talk about money, jobs, etc etc.. The pathetic thing is, these are the same people who are sitting at home all day living off of welfare or unemployment, not interested in working.

      The Mendenhalls donated the money to be specifically used for the practice facility. It's not like UNLV received a check and decided to spend the money on athletics. I realize trying to get through to the trolls and the anti-everything people is impossible, but I hope the casual Las Vegans understand the truth.

      It's a shame we're stuck with so many uneducated, stubborn, ignorant, or pessimistic people in Las Vegas who can't understand the concept that building infrastructure facilitates growth. It's the reason we can't get a much needed new football/basketball/Events center in the Airport overflow lot.

    13. ah, the trolls. tragic figures, the world just keeps on spinning despite your seething rage that it rotates in the wrong direction.

    14. UNLV-123 has it right on. The ignorance of those in this talkback who choose to spread lies and refuse to read the article BEG for banning.

    15. @ lvfacts101

      You're obviously some dumb and young kid or some newcomer to Vegas. UNLV had it's glory days in the late 70's, all of the 80's and even won a national championship in 1990 (crushed Duke by 30 points). Along the way, UNLV had some pretty good b-ball players come here. A guy named Larry Johnson (McDonald's All-American), and some other guys named Armon Gilliam, Greg Anthony and Stacy Augmon came to UNLV to play b-ball. Do your homework and check your facts before making dumb comments.

      For some people, good news coming from Las Vegas obviously equals wasted tax payer dollars.

    16. UNLV is definitely going in the right direction to build their basketball program, but if they don't fix a couple of the major problems they will continue to be a "mid-major". First, they need to televise their games. All of them. Second, they need to join a legitimate conference.

    17. Next project - UNLV NOW. Get it done and grow the university.
      Go Rebels!!

    18. One step at a time....school est. 1957. It has has changed so much from my years there where the admissions office was on Harmon and Maryland Pkway. Nothing wrong with slow growth.Remember slow and steady always wins the race. I believe it was Mr Lee (forgive my accuracy) who recently made a large endowment to the business dept. As the Englestead family made their endowment to the soccer club. UNLV is an infant as far as University years are concerned.
      Give! make a difference it won't be long until there will be a medical center on Campus it probably won't come before a stadium is built but it will come. The land where UNLV sits is there for every one to enjoy. Take some pride. Join the R.A.F. give to the performing arts etc call Bud Beekman. Stop crying.The younger generation has got to step up!!!!!

    19. Kellen Phillips said...."basketball school with a few kids graduating each year with worthless hotel management and business degrees"....

      I guess you're hoping for a few more Art History Majors with minors in Drama, Huh?... Boy, now those are promising high paying careers.

    20. One step at a time. UNLV has to cut programs because of lack of government funding, this center was privately funded. I like the way Ricovegas put it, UNLV is just an infant, looking for room to grow. As we move along, we'll have more and more UNLV grads make donations to their school. I love the Mendenhall center, and it'll be just one more thing to put the Runnin' Rebels back on top! Go Rebs! Go UNLV!