SASKATOON – This morning at an event at the Physical Athletic Complex (PAC), the University of Saskatchewan (U of S) announced that alumni and long-time donors Ron and Jane Graham made a gift of $4 million to support the construction of two basketball practice courts at Merlis Belsher Place.
In addition to the new courts, the Grahams’ gift to the U of S will also fund locker-rooms and team rooms for the Huskie basketball teams. The donation will also give the university flexibility to consider developing an athletic research area in the new space.
“This is a true game-changer,” said Huskie men’s basketball coach Barry Rawlyk. “Access to a facility such as this will greatly enhance the student-athlete experience for every member of our team and will further enhance our ability to attract top-level talent to the University of Saskatchewan.”
The new hardwood on the U of S campus will increase the availability of practice and training times, which are significantly restricted as a result of student exams that are currently written in the PAC gymnasiums during December and April. Ron Graham said that reduction in practice time has a real impact on athlete training.
“It’s a year-round commitment,” he said, noting that the current arrangement also leads to other hurdles. “It’s difficult for the university to attract tournaments, because the demands on the PAC are significant.”
The Grahams were also acknowledged at this morning’s announcement by U of S President Peter Stoicheff, for a significant milestone as the largest cumulative alumni donors to the university in its history, contributing close to $20 million in their lifetime to support the U of S and its students. In their honour, the main court at the PAC will be named Ron and Jane Graham Centre Court.
“We are privileged to have the support of Ron and Jane Graham, who are shining examples of what it means to be passionate University of Saskatchewan alumni,” said Stoicheff. “Their generosity is evident across campus, having contributed to numerous athletic initiatives, academic programs, and student scholarships. Simply put, they are outstanding supporters who have made a positive impact on our campus for our entire community.”
Other notable projects the Grahams have supported include the expansion of the Graham Huskie Clubhouse at Griffiths Stadium and the establishment of the Ron and Jane Graham School of Professional Development in the College of Engineering.
The construction timeline and projected opening date of Merlis Belsher Place is still to be determined, based on funding secured through the Home Ice campaign. The university is seeking community support to raise the remaining $7 million to complete the project. Merlis Belsher Place will replace the aging Rutherford Rink and provide an essential facility for Huskie Athletics, Saskatoon Minor Hockey and the community.