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Construction on KU home for Naismith’s rules pushed back

  • The Wichita Eagle
  • Published Wednesday, Sep. 25, 2013, at 3:43 p.m.

— When you are preparing to house one of the most historic documents in sports, there are certain things you must consider. The lighting, for example. It can’t be too harsh, or too low, and it certainly can’t compromise the document.

When James Naismith’s original rules of basketball find their permanent home in the DeBruce Center, a new building adjacent to Allen Fieldhouse, KU officials hope they become a destination attraction for generations.

So details such as the lighting — and other major design issues — have pushed back the construction of the DeBruce Center to next spring, according KU Endowment president Dale Seuferling.

The KU basketball team, which opens practice on Friday, begins its exhibition schedule Oct. 29 against Pittsburg State at Allen Fieldhouse. For KU officials, the idea of starting construction on the three-story, $18 million project during basketball season was an impractical idea.

“It reached the point,” Seuferling said, “where you don’t want to start now and have these huge conflicts with the game-day crowds.”

When KU Endowment announced formal plans for the DeBruce Center in April, construction was scheduled to start this year. But other than a delayed start date, Seuferling says the rest of the project is ready. The financing, which includes a primary donation from Paul and Katherine DeBruce of Mission Hills, is in place. And the general plans haven’t changed.

The new building will be connected to Allen Fieldhouse and the Booth Family Hall of Athletics, while also serving as a student center with dining options and meeting spaces for KU students. But the centerpiece will still be Naismith’s rules, which were purchased by KU alumnus David Booth in late 2010 and donated to KU, where Naismith served as the school’s first basketball coach in 1898.

Booth paid $4.3 million to acquire the rules during an auction at Sotheby’s in New York. When he offered to donate the artifact to KU, Booth suggested that the school erect a new building to house the document.

“The DeBruce Center will serve not only as a ‘must-see’ destination landmark for sports fans and history buffs,” KU athletic director Sheahon Zenger said earlier this year, “but (it will also serve) as an important, integral part of campus benefiting students, faculty and visitors alike.”

First, though, KU had to figure out what the building would look like. And Seuferling said design questions pushed back the start date. KU officials, Seuferling said, wanted to be sure the new building didn’t affect the sight lines of Allen Fieldhouse’s exterior.

“That was always a major consideration,” Seuferling said. “And that kind of contributed to the timing, and getting the design right and not going with one design and saying, “This is it.”

Seuferling said the plans and renderings for the building could be unveiled in early 2014. And when construction begins in the spring, KU will have a full summer to get started on the project and prepare for how construction might affect the site next fall.

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