Saban Center getting state funding for STEM program

In her State of the State Address Tuesday, Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey announced the state would join Nick and Terry Saban in creating a STEM hub inside the Saban Center for local and regional school districts.

A news conference Wednesday at the Tuscaloosa Amphitheater offered a showcase of the center’s future home.

STEM stands for science, technology, engineering and math. Besides the STEM facets, the Saban Center will also house the Tuscaloosa Children’s Theatere and Children’s Hands-On Museum, rebranded as IGNITE. State School Superintendent Eric Mackey gave details on how the Saban Center won’t just be housed inside the facility.

“This where people are going to go learn things,” Mackey said. “They are going to participate and be a part of it. It is also going to be a place, a center that goes out into the community and into our schools to do more teaching and more explaining to students what career opportunities are in STEM.”

Tuscaloosa Mayor Walt Maddox also offered specific details about a timeline for the project.

“The goal would be to have final design done by the completion of 2023 or first quarter of 2024,” Maddox said. “At that point, we want to go to bids in 2024 and have it open in 2026. That is the timeline. Certainly, there is going to be some coordination now with our partners with the state of Alabama.”

Nick Saban’s said these education opportunities are important to him and Terry.

“When I was in the eighth grade, I got a D in music because I wouldn’t get up in front of the class and sing because I was shy,” Saban said. “When that report card came home, my dad said ‘go get your basketball uniform, we are taking it to the coach. We are turning in your uniform.’ So we turned in the uniform.”

Saban said his dad forced him to quit the basketball team until his grades were better.

“Then he took me to the coal mines,” he said. “We went 527 feet deep and he said ‘this is where you are going to end up if you don’t get an education.’ So that was my lesson. That was my inspiration to make sure that I did everything I could to to get a quality education so I could create opportunities for the future.”

The Sabans, superintendents and Maddox said there will be no shortage of opportunities at the Saban Center.

“We want every child in this community, regardless of their ZIP code, to have a chance at the American dream,” Maddox said. “This gives them to opportunity to get that chance not at a good center, not at a great center, but at an elite center because the Sabans have made than demand of us and we want to meet demand of ourselves and we are going to meet it.”

Maddox said the Tuscaloosa City Council is putting $55 million into the Saban Center, and tens of millions of dollars will come from the state. Overall, the project will well exceed $100 million.

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