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$5 million donation to help fund athletics complex

BY SUSAN MILLER DEGNAN

sdegnan@MiamiHerald.com

Thanks to the largest individual donation to University of Miami athletics in the program's history, the Hurricanes will build a two-story complex that will include a student-athlete academic center, sigificantly enlarged sports medicine facility, new football locker room and football lounge and a "gallery of champions'' at the entrance.

The $5 million gift was made by UM boosters Theodore Schwartz and his son Todd Schwartz, through the Ted & Todd Schwartz Family Foundation. The new complex, which will encompass 30,000 square feet of new space, plus a renovation of the current Hecht Athletic Center, will be named the Theodore G. Schwartz and Todd G. Schwartz Center for Athletic Excellence.

Until now, New York Yankee Alex Rodriguez's $3.9-million to help fund Alex Rodriguez Park at Mark Light Field had been the biggest financial gift to UM athletics.

"It's going to take this program to the next level," UM athletic director Kirby Hocutt said by phone Thursday of the $5 million donation. "This isn't the end. It's the start of further enhancements to our athletic facility. Once we get this project finalized there are other needs that we have that we'll turn our focus to.

"We're so excited and appreciative of the Schwartz family stepping forward..."

Ted Schwartz, 57, a longtime Hurricanes fan, lives in Chicago and has a residence in Aventura. He's founder and chairman of the board of directors of APAC Customer Services, Inc., based in Bannockburn, Ill. His son Tod, 29, graduated from Tulane and is president of TCS Realty in Chicago.

Hocutt said the project has raised $10.5 million of its $13.68-million goal. He said construction should begin 12 to 15 months from now, and is expected to be completed in another 18 months from then.

The academic area on the second floor will include classrooms, tutor rooms, a computer lab, a math-and-science technology lab, academic advisor offices, a 120-seat auditorium, a learning resource room and study space to accommodate more than 400 student-athletes.

The first floor will have the new football team locker room, with a lounge for players to "congregate after and before practices, watch SportsCenter, play video games or just relax," Hocutt said.

When the football team moves into its new space, the area in which it now has its locker room, plus the 3,300 square feet used now for athletic training /sports medicine, will become a 10,000-square-foot sports medicine facility on the ground floor. The sports medicine complex will feature in-ground hydrotherapy pools, examination rooms, digital imaging and extensive rehabiliation space for all athletes.

Hocutt said the "gallery of champions'' will be a place to exhibit national championship trophies and other awards from the past. It will not take the place of the UM Sports Hall of Fame.

Besides Alex Rodriguez Park, the most significant enhancement made in the past few years to UM athletic facilities was the basketball field house with practice areas.

UM also made modest enhancements recently to Cobb Stadium for track and field prior to hosting the Atlantic Coast Conference championships last spring, as well as minor enhancements to the Schiff Family Tennis Center and some football support areas and coaching offices.

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