There is a future for Foster after all

Published 8:02 pm Monday, June 15, 2009

The University of Alabama System Board of Trustees will decide Friday if the UA basketball program will get a new practice facility at Coleman Coliseum. Such a facility would be new coach Anthony Grant’s first victory in his position and, more than anything else, would give the Crimson Tide a major card to play when sought after recruits visit the campus.

But the Board will also decide whether to approve money for the renovation and expansion of Foster Auditorium, which would then be used by the girls basketball and volleyball programs.

Construction of the new practice facility has been estimated at about $4.5 million, and the Foster improvements would cost more than $15 million. Money aside, though, the news about Foster Auditorium is much more significant than that of a new practice facility.

Quick history lesson. Foster once served as a campus hub in general and the site of student registration specifically. It was here that then-Gov. George Wallace made his infamous “stand in the schoolhouse door” on June 11, 1963 to keep two black students, James Hood and Vivian Malone Jones, from enrolling at the university.

Wallace was eventually ordered to step aside, but his stand for far too long defined the university and the state.

Though one of the most recognized sites from the Civil Rights movement, Foster had fallen into such disrepair that demolition seemed more likely than renovation. There were a few offices in the building and the occassional class would make use of the bleachers, but more noticeable were the holes in the windows and the yellow tape used to keep visitors away from dangerous asbestos.

But now the building seems to have a future, and a fitting one. The place where a black woman was once forbidden to enter, Foster could now feature black basketball and volleyball players competing alongside their white counterparts.