LARAMIE — Wyoming basketball opened the 2017-18 season in style Friday. In addition to the men’s and women’s teams picking up wins in exhibition action, Wyoming athletics re-dedicated the Arena-Auditorium after its second phase of renovations and unveiled a statue of Wyoming basketball legend Kenny Sailors.
“This has been a labor of love for me for probably going on six years now,” Wyoming athletics director Tom Burman said. “From when we started discussing this to today. But today is a historical day for UW and UW athletics. This project is a great example of a public, private partnership to benefit all citizens of the great state of Wyoming.”
The renovations cost $30 million overall and the second phase specifically cost $13 million.
The second phase of renovations focused more on fan amenities. A new entry was constructed on the east side of the Arena-Auditorium. The changes include a new fan store, redesigned concession stands, a new ticket sales area and a club area dubbed Mickey’s after Mick McMurry, which is open to donors on game days and will host special events.
The interior designs of the renovated concourse include four arena entrances that highlight geographical landmarks in Wyoming: Devils Tower, Flaming Gorge, the Grand Teton Range and Vedauwoo. The concourse also includes tributes to the history of Wyoming basketball and trophies from WNIT, Wyoming’s College Basketball Invitational and 2015 men’s conference tournament championships.
The Sailors statue is located in the Sailors Gallery in the new entryway. The statue’s sculptor, Jay Warren, said the 18-foot, 2,000-pound statue was the largest he had ever made. He said he was able to meet Sailors before the Cowboy legend passed away in January 2016.
“I hardly ever get to meet the subject that I’m sculpting,” he said.
Sailors is credited with developing the modern-day jump shot and helped lead Wyoming to the 1943 NCAA Championship.
Fennis Dembo and Reggie Slater were among the former Wyoming players who returned for the re-dedication.
“Just enjoyed what was going on today in a sense of re-opening the Arena-Auditorium with the new remodeling and also just grateful that we had a lot of former guys come back to participate in that,” current Wyoming head coach Allen Edwards said. “I had a chance to spend some time with those guys and hear some stories about their glory days, which is always a good thing. But also getting them to reconnect with the program and the young men that are in it now.”
Burman, donor and court namesake Maury Brown, UW president Laurie Nichols and Gov. Matt Mead were among those to speak at the ceremony.
“UW is headed in the right direction,” Mead said. “This Double-A re-opening is a part of that. I don’t know all of the details of the building. I know there’s many (parts) to it. I know there’s many things that have been thought out, and I thank all the sponsors and the fans, again, the people who actually did the work. It’s magnificent. But summary of it is ... it has the magic and wonder of a Kenny Sailors jump shot. It’s unforgettable.”