UNC Athletics is considering creating a new practice space for the women’s basketball team in Woollen Gym. But in order to do that, they may be sacrificing a basement dance studio used by dance classes and multiple dance clubs.
According to Rick Steinbacher, a senior associate athletic director in charge of capital projects and facilities, there are five athletic programs that compete for practice and competition space in Carmichael Arena. These include women’s basketball, volleyball, wrestling, gymnastics and fencing — displacing teams when the arena is being used by another sport.
“It's a real challenge for our coaches, just trying to be able to compete and practice and be ready for home and away games, when a lot of times they want to practice and they can't because either another team is practicing, or there's a wrestling meet, or a gymnastics meet or a volleyball game that day,” he said.
Steinbacher said the need for a practice gym has been clear for many years, even before 2014. The new space would primarily be used by women’s basketball, but may also be used by volleyball and other sports.
He said the 86-year-old gymnasium is not an ideal host for the air conditioning equipment required for a new practice gym.
Steinbacher said UNC Athletics has considered eight options to house the new air conditioning equipment. Although he said athletics has not made a decision on what to do at the site yet, the option that seems to minimize disruption and costs the most is converting one of the dance studios into a maintenance room.
One of the options he said they considered was putting the air conditioning equipment on a platform outside the building, which would not disrupt any programming. However, this would constitute a large, expensive construction project.
“It turns into this enormous thing that — a) just wouldn't look right — and b) costs a lot more than what we originally hoped would be a solution,” Steinbacher said.
UNC Athletics is hoping to finalize plans and a timeline for the project next month.