If you have attended a University of Louisville sporting event in the last year you have seen the commercials flashing across the screen. Also, if you went to fill up your gas tank at any of the Louisville Thornton’s location then you were asked to donate money after swiping your credit card. Now, with the donations made totaling $14.5 million starting with the initial $3 million donation from Thornton’s, the construction of the Thornton’s Academic Center of Excellence is underway.
The Thornton’s Academic Center of Excellence is a new state of the art center for student athletes that is set to open fall 2016 at the University of Louisville. According to Kenneth Klein, Associate Athletic Director for Student Services and Diversity, the new center will house all academic operations and provide a central location for student athletes and academic staff. The center will serve as a resource for all student athletes to help them excel within the classroom.
The 40,000-square-foot building will include many features to help further the academic success of the University of Louisville’s student athletes. These features will include tutorial areas, a high-performance training table that will feed the student athletes, computer laboratories, and office/classroom space. These spaces will be used daily to service the more than 750 student athletes that currently attend the university and span across the Cardinals’ 23 sports.
Academic advising and other resources for student athletes are currently spread around multiple buildings on campus. The lacrosse, baseball, and volleyball meet at the Little Yum! Center located on Floyd Street while the rowing, swimming and softball athletes meet in the Student Activities Center (SAC). According to Rachel Overton an Academic Advisor for Student Athletes, there is no space on campus large enough to house the more than 750 athletes in a single location. For the entirety of the student athletes to meet in one location the athletic department must rent a space large enough to house them all. The new center will offer a large meeting space that will provide ample room to meet with all student athletes in a single location.
The advantages to housing all of the student athletes in one location is that the athletic department can host more events such as inviting outside speakers, leadership training, talks about social media and student conduct and most notably the Louie Awards. These awards are important because they recognize student athletes who have exhibited outstanding performance on and off the field including leadership, community service and best breakout performance of the year.
Many students have expressed concerns that the new center’s location makes it inconvenient for students. Along with being located at the intersection of Central and Floyd Street the access roads to Papa John’s Stadium cross multiple train tracks. Students are concerned that the location of the center will make it difficult for students to arrive at the center on time and also to be able to return to campus in a timely fashion.
Overton suggested that the university could help address the problems being voiced by student athletes by bringing back the old Black Line for the TARC route. This route would simply travel between the SAC and Papa John’s Stadium with one stop at the natatorium in between. This would offer a quick and easy journey between the two locations. This would be a substantial improvement from the current TARC route which travels in a circle around the entire Belknap campus. However, only time will tell what challenges might arise when the center is up and running.
Marvin Mitchell, Senior Associate Athletic Director for Student Services and Diversity, also noted that the university will be offering designated parking for specific sports teams. That way student athletes who are visiting the center will have a designated parking area and will not have to worry about searching for a spot in the current purple parking.
While the Thornton’s Center will only be accessible to current University of Louisville student athletes, the general student population should not fret. The university is currently in discussions about a new student academic center that would be open to all students that is set to open in 2018. This new center would do similar things as the Thornton’s center by bringing all advising and academic resources to one accessible location for the student body.
Overall, the convenience and resources available at the Thorton’s Academic Center of Excellence will make it a great tool for improving both the social and academic lives of current students. It will also serve as a potential recruiting tool to place the university on par with other ACC schools. Students should be excited to see the completion and implementation of the academic center coming fall 2016.