UTC announces plans for Wolford Family Athletics Center

The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga announced Saturday the progression of the new athletic facility, which after years of discussions has a plan in place to become a reality.

The facility will be named the Wolford Family Athletics Center, after UTC football All-American Bucky Wolford, who died on Sept. 1. Wolford is still tied for the school record in interceptions with 13.

"The generosity of the Wolford family and all of the donors who have helped make this possible is sincerely appreciated," UTC chancellor Dr. Steve Angle said in a news release. "We would not be here without the help and partnership of John 'Thunder' Thornton, who worked tirelessly to ensure we were successful. Maybe supporters were inspired by Bucky Wolford, who defines what it means to be a Moc.

"Bucky had a profound impact on UTC as a student, a UT Board of Trustee member, a UC Foundation Board member, an advisor to several chancellors, and a supporter of our athletic programs. Naming our new athletic facility in honor of the Wolford family will serve as an inspiration for both current and future Mocs."

The center will be a 35,000-square-foot addition to McKenzie Arena that will have a new sports medicine area and a state-of-the-art hydrotherapy section, along with team meeting and classroom space for use by all student-athletes at UTC. Football will be a big beneficiary, with a plan for a new locker room, coaches' offices and meeting rooms, to go with a university-wide multipurpose space.

The building will connect to McKenzie between Gate 1 and the main loading ramp off the corner of 5th and Mabel streets.

There will also be a major renovation inside McKenzie Arena, which will include new locker rooms for the men's and women's basketball teams as well as new working spaces for the athletics staff and coaches with offices in the arena.

According to the release, areas currently vacated by staff moving into the new building will be renovated, which will allow remaining coaches and staff to expand into virtually new offices and meeting spaces inside the existing structure of the arena.

"A facility of this stature will impact our entire athletics program," UTC vice chancellor and athletic director Mark Wharton said. "Not only does it give new areas for our football and athletic training programs, it frees up additional space we currently use every day in McKenzie Arena. It is exciting to know that the vision of this asset to our university is becoming a reality."

This would be considered the first major win for Wharton, who became the school's athletics leader in August.

Contact Gene Henley at ghenley@timesfreepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @genehenleytfp.