Tucsonans Cole and Jeannie Davis have committed a $6 million leadership gift to the University of Arizona in order to initiate the first phase of renovations to McKale Memorial Center.
The Davis family has now reached $10 million in giving to Arizona’s athletics department, which also includes a leadership gift for the construction of the Richard Jefferson Gymnasium, its strength and conditioning center, and basketball locker room and hallway renovations in McKale.
"During our initial introductions, Jeannie and I were so impressed with (head coach) Sean Miller and his vision for where Arizona basketball was headed," Cole Davis said.
"Now, four years later, we've seen the results of that vision and we're excited to be supporting a program that can compete for championships. It's important for men's basketball to be as competitive as possible for the overall health of the athletics department," Davis also said.
"Our hope is that by helping to strengthen our basketball programs, we can have a positive impact on all student-athletes at Arizona, which, in turn, will help them not only have a great experience while in school, but will prepare them to become leaders once their playing days are over."
The Arizona athletics department staff, in coordination with the UA Foundation, is working to raise $30 million for Phase I of an overall $80 million McKale renovation project.
With the Davis' leadership gift, the department has already secured $12.6 million and has presented a number of gift proposals that are expected to increase that total to at least $20 million in the near future.
The renovation project is expected to positively impact all 20 of the UA’s sports programs and specifically the men’s and women’s basketball, volleyball and gymnastics programs, which use McKale as their competition site.
"We can't thank Cole and Jeannie enough for their generosity and support of Arizona Athletics," said Greg Byrne, director of athletics.
"Their commitment to our programs is admirable and their contributions have gone a long way in providing our student-athletes with the best possible experience," Byrne said. "McKale is 40 years old and in need of upgrades in order to keep the facility competitive with others around the country as it relates to recruiting, the fan experience and revenue generation. The Davis' leadership gift is a huge initial step and we expect it to create momentum for future gifts that will assist in all phases of our renovation plan."
The first aspect of the renovation project is on track to be completed within the next month with the installation of a state-of-the-art, high-definition scoreboard. Approximately 25 percent larger than the current scoreboard, the new version features four Panasonic video boards measuring 12 feet by 19 feet, a static ring on top for promotional opportunities and two LED rings.
"I am so grateful for the support that Jeannie and Cole Davis have given to the University of Arizona,” said UA President Ann Weaver Hart. "Their generosity will enable much-needed renovations to the McKale Center so that we can recruit, retain and graduate the best student-athletes from around the country. We also have some of the best fans in the nation and we want to provide them with an outstanding experience, which these improvements will help to do. The Davises have been integral to the athletics department's recent successes, and with their leadership, we will ensure the continued national competitiveness of our athletics programs."
Pending Arizona Board of Regents approval, the remaining aspects of Phase I are expected to start in May 2014. Those elements will include upgraded seating, hand rails, enhanced lighting and a new playing floor. In addition, conceptual designs have been generated to address amenities and upgrades that are likely to include men’s and women’s locker rooms, concessions and restrooms.
"We are so grateful to the Davis family for their support of men’s basketball at Arizona,” Miller said. "Their generosity is one of the main reasons for the growth we've seen in our program over the last few seasons. They have helped us address many of the needs we identified at the start of our tenure and their kindness has assisted us in creating a foundation for future success."
The Davises became part of the Tucson community when they bought a retirement home in Tucson in 1999. Their fondness for the UA developed shortly thereafter and they decided to make Tucson their permanent residence in 2003.
Today, the Davises are members of the 1885 Society, a leadership group that provides unrestricted support to the UA for advancement in academic excellence. The 1885 Society helps fund initiatives that include a faculty chair in the College of Engineering and a graduate fellowship program in humanities. The couple also has supported Arizona athletics’ C.A.T.S. Life Skills program, the College of Fine Arts and the Arizona Cancer Center.
"I would like to represent women's basketball in thanking the Davis family for this generous gift," said head coach Niya Butts. "We're working every day to move our program in the right direction and the support the Davises have provided gives us an opportunity to attract some of the top prospective student-athletes to the Pac-12 and from around the country. They are an asset to our athletics department and should be celebrated for all they have done for our University, the staff and the student-athletes."