Samford University in Birmingham announced a $65 million capital project focused on athletics and recreation, which will transform Bashinky Fieldhouse, the Beeson Center and Seibert Hall.

According to a statement from the university, “This historic project will create a world-class campus complex providing students and employees with expanded opportunities to improve physical fitness and mental wellness as well as new spaces for campus events and student gatherings.”

The new complex is part of a comprehensive plan for expanded student recreation, health and wellness. The additional facilities will provide new practice and training spaces for the university’s 17 Division I athletic teams.

1819 News spoke to Samford’s Athletic Director (AD) Martin Newton. Newton is a Samford alum who played on the basketball team from 1979 to 1983.  

“Seibert is where I played from ’79 to ’83,” Newton said. “I can assure you it has not changed much since that time frame, so there is an understanding that there is a need for a first-class athletics facility.”

Samford's basketball and volleyball teams now play in the Pete Hanna Center, which opened in 2007 and replaced Seibert Hall as the primary sports venue.

Newton said the alumni base is as engaged as ever and cited the leadership of Samford’s President, Dr. Beck A. Taylor.

“Everybody is very excited,” Newton said. “The future of not just Samford athletics, but the future of this university is very bright. We’re under new leadership with Dr. Taylor and there is so much positive energy.”

The $65 million venture is the largest capital project in the university’s history and will renovate 154,000 square feet of indoor space. Samford is funding $45 million of the renovation and is working to raise the other $20 million through philanthropic gifts.

“This project represents a substantial investment in the health and wellness of our students. We are committed to supporting our students in their educational and spiritual journeys, and we also want to support them in their physical and mental wellbeing,” said Taylor.

“This new facility will enhance campus life and provide students with spaces to gather, exercise, socialize and participate in numerous recreational activities.”  

The largest part of the project will be focused on Seibert Hall, which will be completely redesigned to offer studio spaces for exercise classes, cardio and weight training, and multi-purpose indoor courts. Along with these facilities, the redesign will also add common and lounge areas for students, a coffee house and a 24-hour convenience store.

Additionally, a new 20,000-square-foot building will be constructed adjacent to Seibert Hall and to be used for recreation and event space.

The new facility will offer an elevated indoor track, additional basketball courts and cardio spaces, sound and staging for campus events, a catering kitchen, covered outdoor athletic space and a balcony that overlooks Bobby Bowden Field.

Bashinky Fieldhouse will be renovated as a dedicated student-athlete facility with new training areas, including dedicated practice space for men’s and women’s basketball and volleyball programs.

“We have three teams sharing the same facility and it makes it very difficult to find practice times that don’t involve 5 AM practices or practices that don’t start until 7 PM,” said Newton.

Renovations are not limited to athletics. Across the street from the complex, the first floor of the Dwight and Lucille Beeson Center will become the new home for the university’s health center and counseling services, which currently operate out of Seibert Hall and Dwight M. Beeson Hall.

The school hopes the new and enhanced spaces throughout these four buildings will both enhance student wellness, and help recruit and retain future talent.

“Students want to lead a healthy lifestyle and we want their university to provide them with opportunities to do so,” Taylor said. “From physical fitness and recreation to counseling and health services, this facility will meet students’ needs in mind, body and spirit.”

The Wall Street Journal ranks Samford 1st nationally for student engagement. Samford ranks 3rd nationally for its Graduation Success Rate among all NCAA Division I schools.

Newton says that for Samford, the process for creating great student-athletes begins at recruitment.

“Our coaches do a tremendous job recruiting student-athletes that can do the academic work and are serious about their academic work,” Newton said. “Athletics is very important here. We want to win and be successful, but it takes a backseat to educating and graduating our student-athletes. So I think it’s just being very intentional about it on the front end from a recruiting standpoint.”

Founded in 1841, Samford is a Christian university offering undergraduate programs in the liberal arts along with nationally recognized graduate and professional schools. The university enrolls 5,758 students from 48 states and 22 countries in its 10 academic schools.

The university plans to begin the project in 2023 with a target date for completion ahead of the fall 2024 semester. 

As for the future of the university and the athletic department, Newton’s focus remains on excellence.

“We will continue to be on the forefront of higher education and continue to compete and win Southern Conference championships,” said Newton. "We’re prepared to continue to do what we need to do to remain a Division I program."  

To connect with the author of this story, email or on Twitter @morninganthem.

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