By Richard Stevens -- Senior Writer/GoLobos.com
In the best of worlds -- or maybe in a hurry-up-and-finish construction world -- Lobo tennis coaches Alan Dils and Erica Jasper would be watching their Lobos play on the spanking new courts of the McKinnon Family Tennis Center before the 2014 season ends.
Hey, the lights are up (and going up) and the Center is taking shape. You can see the outline of where the courts will be placed. But Dils warns that it's better to be safe than sorry when it comes to placing down the various layers and coats of a first-class tennis court.
"This is something you can't rush," said Dils. "It's better to take your time, be patient and do it right."
For the Lobos, the collegiate action might have to wait until the fall of 2014. There is a long shot that the Lobos will see some action this season, but, for sure, the courts will be ready for tournament play in the summer.
"You can tell it's going to be a outstanding facility," said Dils. "We're excited, but we are willing to wait and make sure it's done right."
The McKinnon Family Tennis Center is one of the jewels in New Mexico's Master Plan. It's an important step in a renovation project that began about seven years ago and included the renovations to University Arena -- The Pit.
The McKinnon Center will be linked to the softball and baseball fields by a common grounds area -- a family-friendly plaza that will eventually include indoor restrooms and permanent concession stands.
"It's rewarding to watch the lights go up," said Tim Cass, the Deputy Athletic Director to Paul Krebs, who is the Vice President of Athletics. “It's kind of a symbolic moment."
Cass said UNM's renovation program is approaching $100 million in improvements over that seven-year span that dates back to the football Indoor Practice Facility.
Lobo fans attending night basketball games in The Pit already are benefiting from the lights on Ray Birmingham's baseball field. Birmingham's Lobos will be playing under those lights this spring season.
The McKinnon Family Tennis Center will include six sunken courts, stadium seating, stadium lights, and scoreboards. The plans also call for a new clubhouse with offices for the Lobo men’s and women’s programs.
Ian and Sonnet McKinnon gave a record $7.5 million gift to the University of New Mexico with $1.2 million going to the McKinnon Family Tennis Center.
“The project has been supported by other individuals and a lot of them don’t want to be named,” said Cass. “But obviously the generosity of the McKinnon’s was pivotal.”
Cass said there are no state-appropriated dollars going into the tennis center and he said the City of Albuquerque donated the lights. The center will add six more courts down the road.