When the Utah State volleyball team took the court for its annual Blue & White Scrimmage on Aug. 19, Kirby Court at the brand new Wayne Estes Center was officially broken in. As the volleyball regular season gets underway this weekend when USU hosts the Utah State Invitational, sponsored by Gossner Foods on Friday and Saturday, the team is looking forward to using the building and using it to its advantage.
“This is going to be a great building for us. We’re really excited about the potential of filling this place up and making it a nice home court advantage,” said head volleyball coach Grayson DuBose. “We won 70 percent of our matches in the Spectrum the last 15 years, so it’s hard to say that was a bad place to leave, but this is a great environment for us with the intimacy and familiarity. It’s a perfect volleyball venue.”
The Aggie senior class is unanimously thrilled by the new building and everything that comes with it. As they conclude their collegiate careers, each is looking forward to the benefits the Wayne Estes Center has to offer.
“The Estes Center has been amazing so far. We’ve been able to practice in here and have team meetings, lift weights and hang out,” said setter Paige Neves. “It’s been amazing to be a part of and to have as a part of my senior year. It’s a blessing to be a part of this. We’ve been hearing about it, but to have it finally be done and to be able to play in this gym is a blessing. There’s nothing else I’d rather have. This a dream come true kind of feeling.”
Between a lockerroom, a team lounge area, a film and meeting room, an in-season weight room, an athletic training room and the court itself, the Estes Center has the team excited.
“Everything about this building is awesome, and I think it’s really going to benefit us,” said senior libero Ashlan Rogers-Court. “My favorite part about the building is the lounge area and the gym, hands down. There’s no better way to go out than to play in here. It’s so cool. In a way it makes it worse. Part of me wishes I could have played here longer than one year.”
After spending the summer in workouts and practices, the Aggies were ready to get in a match-like situation. Though it’s just been an intra-squad scrimmage, the team has gotten a glimpse of what they can expect during the upcoming season. With a smaller, cozier gym than the Dee Glen Smith Spectrum, the spectators are closer to the court and more involved with the match.
“It was so fun to be in this new environment. It was great to finally have a game-like feel. It was so intense and got so loud. It’s nice to have all of that,” said senior opposite side hitter Jamaica Alisa. “It’s going to be very intimidating for the other team, having the fans so close to us. It’s more of a closed environment. It’s going to get loud and be so good for us.”
As they head into the second year of competition in the Mountain West, the Aggies are feeling confident and excited. The team finished third in the league in 2013 and have been picked to finish in the same position this year in the preseason MW poll. However, the team has other ideas.
“They pay me a lot of money to win, so that’s our goal. Our goal is to win and compete for a conference championship, and I think that’s the same for everyone here on campus,” DuBose said. “I think we established ourselves last year. We return enough kids from a third-place finish last year, that that’s a good place for us. Our goal is always to compete at the top end of our conference.”
Senior outside hitter Rachel Orr is taking it one step further.
“Our main goal is to win the Mountain West,” she said. “We have a tough non-conference schedule, so we want to do well in that and make it to the NCAA Tournament.”
The Aggies recognize the time, work and dedication that have gone into the Estes Center and know it’s not something that just happened on its own.
“Thank you to all of our donors who made this possible. We are just so, so grateful. I’m in awe of our supporters and donors,” said senior middle blocker Kaitlyn VanHoff. “We think that we will do awesome. We’re excited to get going and start playing. We’re all super determined and motivated, ready to win some games.”
The $9.7 million, 32,000 square-foot basketball practice facility and volleyball competition venue contains two regulation-size basketball courts and a regulation-size volleyball competition court with chair back seating for 1,400 fans, along with a training room and in-season strength and conditioning area. Office space for both men’s and women’s basketball and volleyball is also included in the new facility, as well as a locker room and film room for volleyball. Ticketing and concession services are also available on Game Days. Located inside the foyer of the Wayne Estes Center is a visual tribute of the building’s namesake.
Wayne Estes was an All-American basketball player for Utah State University from 1963 to 1965 and still ranks as the third-leading scorer in Utah State history with 2,001 points and the fourth-leading rebounder (893). He holds school records for career points per game (26.7), free throws made in a career (469), consecutive 10-point games (64), points in a season (821), points per game in a season (33.7), points in a game (52), and rebounds in a game (28).
On the night of February 8, 1965, Estes played the last game of his college career against the University of Denver in the Nelson Fieldhouse on the USU campus. Estes, who scored the second-most points in a single-game in school history that night with 48 (trailing his school-record 52 points set earlier in the year) eclipsed the 2,000 point mark with his final basket of the game to give him 2,001 points for his career.
After the game, Estes and some friends stopped at the scene of a car accident near campus. While returning to their vehicle, Estes brushed against a downed high power line and was fatally electrocuted. Estes would have likely been a high draft pick in the National Basketball Association (NBA) in 1965 as he was the second-leading scorer in the nation at 33.7 points per game, just behind Miami’s Rick Barry.
Estes was posthumously given All-American honors by the Associated Press and also earned a posthumous consensus second-team All-American distinction. In 1967, Estes was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.
This project is the latest in a series of recent athletic facility improvements at Utah State. In 2008, construction was completed on the 69,000 square foot Jim & Carol Laub Athletics-Academics Complex. In 2009, USU opened the Steve Mothersell Athletics Hall of Honor as well as its new off-court basketball facilities, which include the Nate and Heather Wickizer men’s basketball and MerLynn Pitcher women’s basketball locker rooms. In 2010, USU opened the Dr. Randall and Julianne Stockham Student-Athlete Academic Hall of Honor. In 2011, a new synthetic turf was installed in the Stan Laub Indoor Training Center, while new AstroTurf was installed on Merlin Olsen Field inside Romney Stadium in 2012. In 2013, USU completed construction on its new 26,000 square foot strength and conditioning center, and new south end zone seating was added to Romney Stadium, before adding chair back seating to the south end zone in 2014.
USU volleyball opens the 2014 season by hosting the Utah State Invitational, sponsored by Gossner Foods on Friday and Saturday, Aug. 29-30. USU will welcome border-foe Idaho State, along with Oregon State and Saint Mary’s. Action gets underway on Friday, Aug. 29 with Saint Mary’s taking on Oregon State at 4 p.m., followed by USU against Idaho State at 7 p.m. On Saturday, Aug. 30, the Aggies open the day’s ledger against Oregon State at 10 a.m, preceding the Idaho State-Saint Mary’s match at Noon. ISU returns to the court at 4 p.m. to tangle with Oregon State, before USU caps off the tournament against Saint Mary’s at 7 p.m.
Season tickets for the inaugural Utah State volleyball season at Kirby Court at Wayne Estes Center are now on sale. Fans can get reserved chairback season tickets for $50, while general admission season tickets are $40. Additionally, fans can purchase a Women’s Sports Pass for $75, which is good for general admission to all volleyball, women’s basketball and gymnastics home events. If fans purchase their volleyball season tickets by September 1, they can get a free Utah State volleyball seat cushion.
Utah State volleyball season and single-match tickets are available by contacting the USU Ticket Office at the Dee Glen Smith Spectrum during its office hours 10 a.m. – 5 p.m., Monday – Friday or by phone by calling 1-888-USTATE-1 or (435) 797-0305. Season tickets can also be purchased online at www.UtahStateAggies.com, the official website of USU Athletics and clicking on the “Ticket Office” tab.
Fans can also follow the Aggie volleyball program on twitter @USUVolleyball, on facebook at USUVolleyball or on instagram at @usuvolleyball. Aggie fans can also follow the Utah State athletic program at @USUAthletics, on facebook at Utah State University Athletics or on instagram at @USUAthletics.
Aggie fans can also still register for the Utah State University Athletics Hall of Fame Ceremony and Banquet on Friday, Sept. 6 at 6 p.m. at the Riverwoods Conference Center in Logan.
For more information or to register, go to www.utahstateaggies.com/HOF or contact Jimmy Moore, Assistant Athletic Director for Special Projects, at (435) 797-7101.