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Utah State University Athletics Announces $1.5 Million Gift

Friday, Jun. 07, 2013

architect's rendering of USU's Wayne Estes Center

An architect's rendering of the planned Wayne Estes Center. The Kirby Court will be a competition-size basketball court inside.

Utah State University Vice President and Director of Athletics Scott Barnes announced a gift of $1.3 million from Blake Kirby, Chairman of the Board of Inovar, Inc., for the naming of Kirby Court inside USU’s new Wayne Estes Center as well as an additional $200,000 to help support the Merlin Olsen Fund for Football Competitive Excellence. The announcement was made June 7.

Kirby, who is a 1991 Utah State University alumnus, is a member of the National Advisory Board for Aggie Athletics as well as USU’s Foundation Board. Kirby founded Inovar, Inc. and was its chief executive officer from 1999 to 2012. Inovar is the largest electronics manufacturing company in the Rocky Mountain Region, providing design and manufacturing services to aerospace, medical, communications and industrial markets.

“I am fortunate to have a family with deep roots at Utah State University and have been an avid Aggie fan as long as I can remember,” said Kirby. “We appreciate the vision and hard work of the administrative leadership, coaches and student-athletes at USU, and are grateful to participate in providing resources that enable them to compete at the highest level in the Mountain West Conference.”

The Wayne Estes Center is a $9.5 million, 32,000 square-foot state-of-the-art basketball practice facility and volleyball competition venue that was anchored by a $5.25 million lead gift from Jim and Carol Laub. It is expected to open in April of 2014.

All funding for the Wayne Estes Center came from private donations.

“We are very grateful for Blake’s generous gift,” said Barnes. “Blake has been entrenched in supporting Aggie Athletics for most of his life as a fan, volunteer and donor. It would be hard to find anyone more passionate. His commitment is critical in further assisting fund raising efforts for the Wayne Estes Center and continuing the success of the Merlin Olsen Fund. Both are important priorities as we transition into the Mountain West Conference.”

The Wayne Estes Center will be located just to the west of the Dee Glen Smith Spectrum where the current Harris Athletics Center sits. The facility will contain a regulation size competition court with chair back seating for 1,400 fans, along with a training room and in-season strength and conditioning area. Office space for both men’s and women’s basketball and volleyball will also be included in the new facility, as well as a locker room and film room for volleyball. Ticketing and concession services will also be available on game days.

Located inside the foyer of the Wayne Estes Center will be a visual tribute of the building’s namesake.

The project is the latest in a series of recent athletic facility improvements at Utah State. In 2008, construction was completed on the 69,000 square foot Jim and Carol Laub Athletics-Academics Complex. In 2009, USU opened the Steve Mothersell Athletics Hall of Honor as well as its new off-court basketball facilities, which include the Nate and Heather Wickizer men’s basketball and MerLynn Pitcher women’s basketball locker rooms. In 2010, USU opened the Dr. Randall and Julianne Stockham Student-Athlete Academic Hall of Honor. In 2011, a new synthetic turf was installed in the Stan Laub Indoor Training Center, while new AstroTurf was installed on Merlin Olsen Field inside Romney Stadium in 2012. And in 2013, USU will complete construction on its new 26,000 square foot strength and conditioning center and install south end zone seating at Romney Stadium.

For more information on the Wayne Estes Center or to pledge a gift, contact the USU Athletics Department at (435) 797-1850.

What Select Utah State Coaches Are Saying About the new Wayne Estes Center

Stew Morrill, Utah State Head Men’s Basketball Coach

“This facility is very important for multiple sports at Utah State. For men’s basketball, it is a much-needed facility to accommodate our program going forward in the Mountain West Conference. It gives us greater flexibility in developing our players thru both regular practice as well as individual workouts. In addition, we will be adding office space that we have desperately needed. Both from a playing a recruiting standpoint, this is a great upgrade for Utah State Basketball.”

Jerry Finkbeiner, Utah State Head Women’s Basketball Coach

“I am very excited about the basketball practice facility/volleyball competition site for what it brings to our recruiting and for what it brings to our logistical challenges with practices times. Upon accepting the job last year, one of the keys that I saw in the growth of women's basketball at Utah State is the facility growth and what it means in all areas of building a program.”

Grayson DuBose, Utah State Head Women’s Volleyball Coach

“We are very excited for our program to have this amazing facility and it will definitely help with the growth of our volleyball team. Recruits want to see that you are moving forward as a program and this will go a long way to show them and their families that Utah State is committed to having a first- class athletics program.”

Contact: Contact: Doug Hoffman, (435) 797-3714

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