TUSCALOOSA, Ala. (AP) — The University of Alabama held a ribbon-cutting ceremony for a $10-million facility that will house adapted athletes.
The Stran-Hardin Arena will include a competition space for the men’s and women’s wheelchair basketball teams and locker room, training, storage and office space for all the program’s coaches and students, the Tuscaloosa News reported . The 27,036-square-foot facility will be home of the University of Alabama Adapted Athletic program, which was started in 2003.
The ceremony was held in front of the facility on the south side of the UA Student Recreation Center Wednesday with athletes, alumni and university officials along with Margaret Stran and Brent Hardin, the founders of the program.
“I thank you all from the bottom of my heart for making the dream of this building a reality,” Stran, the associate director of the program.
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Hardin said the program began practicing in the arena last week. The program plans to have its first wheelchair basketball home games and an alumni celebration in the new arena on Jan. 20.
“It still blows my mind that the University of Alabama is the first school to have an arena like this,” said Caitlin McDermott, an alumna of the program and member of the championship 2015 women’s wheelchair team. “I really hope you all enjoy this as much as the staff and athletes here have come to enjoy it.”
Hardin and Stran were given the naming rights after donating $4 million of the $5 million in gifts to bring the facility to life.
The couple learned of the program after meeting a student athlete who talked about his experiences.
“We were just immediately drawn to the attitude and effort of the adapted athletes,” Mike Mouron said.
Maude Jacques, a graduate student in social work who plays tennis and was on the basketball team from 2012-16, hopes the new arena will bring additional exposure for the program.
“Big dreams like this require a great deal of vision. They do require a great deal of support from many, many people,” university president Stuart Bell said. “The University of Alabama is great as we are because of the support of people who love our university and love our students.”