The Wolford Family Athletic Center is officially under way.
Shovels were lifted and plunged into dirt for the groundbreaking ceremony of the $34-million complex at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga.
“It has arrived and we are ready to turn some dirt,” Chancellor Steven R. Angle said.
Discussions for building the center began in 2013, he said, and construction is expected to take approximately two years.
“Hopefully it’ll be a little earlier, but this has taken time to get here and I know we’re going to do it right.”
The project will include the 37,500-square-foot addition and 23,000 square feet of renovation to McKenzie Arena, which attaches to the new building.
The Wolford Center will include expanded athletic training space for football as well as men’s and women’s basketball.
“It is going to impact our student athletes and the quality of their experience,” Angle said.
The addition’s two upper floors will have classrooms, student support labs, offices and 6,000 square feet of meeting space.
The center is named in honor and memory of James “Bucky” Wolford, who died in September 2017. A UTC alumnus whose was part of or owner of retail development companies with properties throughout the United States, was a Mocs All-American defensive back from 1966-69 and a 1989 UTC Athletics Hall of Fame inductee.
His 13 career interceptions are tied for the UTC record, and he led the Mocs with 852 rushing yards in 1968, when the team achieved a 9-1 record.
John “Thunder” Thornton, a close friend of Wolford’s, described him as “one of the toughest, greatest, fair, sweetest guys I’ve ever met.”
“I don’t think ever in my life if I’ve been more honored to talk about one of the greatest guys and one of my best friends on the face of this earth,” Thornton said at the groundbreaking ceremony. “You couldn’t find a better man and a better family for this name to go on this building.”
At the groundbreaking, thanks were given to, among others, the Wolford family, UTC donors, the UT system, members of the UC Foundation, Tennessee Sen. Todd Gardenhire and the UTC Department of Facilities, Planning and Management.
“This is actually a really complex project and difficult site, and we appreciate all the work that everybody has put into this,” Angle said.
Read more about the ceremony here.