MILWAUKEE - Being able to compete in college athletics means being able to offer student-athletes an opportunity to succeed. At UWM, they're taking a big step in that direction.
Ever since taking over as the director of athletics at UWM in 2013, Amanda Braun's been dreaming.
"I jumped out of bed this morning like is this really happening today?" she said. "It’s worth waiting for and we know that’s the case."
She and many others, like women’s basketball coach Kyle Rechlicz, have seen this particular dream struggle to come to an end.
"When I first arrived, the head men’s basketball coach was different at the time and he was like, ‘be patient,’ telling recruits that this is happening because it’s getting stuck in the planning process," said Rechlicz.
That is, until now.
"The fact that Amanda Braun was able to actually make this happen, it is, it’s just amazing. I mean, our student-athletes, the rest of the student body, all of Milwaukee, UWM, is going to benefit from having this practice facility," she said.
Oh-How Center at UWM
The Orthopedic Hospital of Wisconsin, or the O-How Center, broke ground and within a year, a new practice facility for the basketball programs at UWM will be on campus.
"It’s a beautiful gym with a nice strength and conditioning area. We have a film room in there and some lounge space," she said.
It adds to men’s basketball coach Pat Baldwin's ability to bring in players.
"This is one of the things that you talk about, the facilities and what you’re able to offer student-athletes and this will be a prime example of the things we’ll be able to offer," said Baldwin. "I’ve been showing the video, the renderings left and right to our possible recruits, just trying to make them understand what the reality is going to be."
Both coaches took part in the process, giving their opinions and ideas.
"I think there was definitely some conversations about whether it’s the film room or the gym, you know, we had those conversations. And again, that’s where there’s a collective effort to this whole thing. But, I’m just along for the ride and really happy for our programs," said Baldwin.
Part of the ride seemed to be very comfortable for Rechlicz.
"I have to tell you my favorite part was the sit test. They brought in all this furniture and we got to sit on them and try them out and I was like this is really cool," said Rechlicz.
More importantly, it moves the Panthers forward.
"I think high-major, like I think this is, it’s turning a mid-major program like Milwaukee into somebody who can compete at the national level," he said. When you have people feeling good about what we’re doing, our vision, our goals, consistency, ability and aspiration. And these coaches are aspirational. So, as soon as you get all that lined up and you begin to see the results of that attitude and that effort, it’s transformational and that’s how we’re all feeling right now."
And the dream has become a reality.
"It absolutely seems real, especially when you put a shovel in the ground. You know that something’s happening special," Braun said. "Now for it to be here, and my window’s right across that roadway there, and we’ll be able to watch it come to be."