LOGAN – Aggie fans filled the east bleachers at Kirby Court in the new Wayne Estes Center for the ribbon cutting ceremony that officially opened the new building. The Estes Center will be a basketball practice facility and a volleyball competition venue. It will also serve as the new offices for men’s and women’s basketball as well as volleyball.
“From where I’m standing, this looks like our first sell-out in this facility,” said Jim Laub, the principle donor to the facility. “Over the last several years, it’s become almost a daily saying that it’s a great day to be an Aggie. That’s especially true today.”
The 32,000 square foot facility is named after Wayne Estes, a USU All-American basketball player who was fatally electrocuted after stopping at the scene of a car accident near campus and walking into a downed power line. The accident occurred February 8, 1965, just hours after a basketball game where he broke the Nelson Fieldhouse scoring record and eclipsed the 2,000 point mark for his career. Some of the members of Estes’ family, including his younger brother Ron, were in attendance at the ribbon cutting ceremony Wednesday.
“It’s a special honor for me and our family to be a part of this,” Ron Estes said to the crowd. “When you lose someone who’s as special to your life as my brother was to me, it becomes very important to you to keep their memory alive. You know you won’t forget, but you want others to remember and celebrate the wonderful person he was and the things that he did. I know as long as Utah State stands, my brother Wayne’s memory will stand tall, just like he was.”
The center includes two full basketball courts for practice, a volleyball arena, offices for the coaching staff and a lobby dedicated to honoring Estes, including an interactive video board that tells his story, his basketball jersey and the piece of hardwood floor taken from the Nelson Fieldhouse where he took his last shot.
Men’s head basketball coach Stew Morrill talked about the challenges of stepping up into a new conference and said that recruiting is becoming “an arms race.” He emphasized the impact the new facility could have to recruits.
“If you’re going to get players at the Mountain West level, you have to show them things,” he said. “They want to see where they’re going to practice. We’re going to practice in the Spectrum when we can, but we’re also going to practice here. This is something unbelievably special. You have to have weight rooms, academic buildings and practice facilities if you’re going to recruit the modern-day student-athlete. We’ve taken a huge step forward with all of our buildings.”
Blake Kirby, who is a USU alumnus and chairman of the board of Inovar, Inc., was another major donor to the center. He said that having the building named after Estes meant a lot to him because his father attended USU with Estes.
“I don’t know a lot about growing a great athletic program, but in business it takes leadership, management, facilities and an incredible product,” he said. “Most importantly, what I’ve learned is that it takes purpose. The purpose at Utah State is the student-athlete. That’s what it’s all about. The quote on the wall about Wayne Estes summarizes what this is all about. As great of a player as Wayne Estes was, he was a better human being. I’m hoping that’s what we can teach our students here at Utah State.”
After the official ribbon cutting, those in attendance were invited to tour the facility and enjoy cake in honor of Estes’ birthday, which would have been Tuesday.