Ohio State has strayed from the rivers and the lakes that it’s used to – the Buckeyes have gone chasing waterfalls.
Part of the $2.5 million facelift at the Woody Hayes Athletic Center is the addition of a water wall, bisecting the new locker room from the therapy quarters. It’s all in the name of recruiting, or keeping up with the Joneses. In this case, maybe it’s the Sabans. Alabama’s newly renovated locker room also includes a waterfall.
For two months months, hard hats – not football helmets – will become the headwear of choice around the WHAC. The project features a new reconfigured 10,000-square-foot locker room, HDTVs, a lounge and a nutrition area. The lockers will include iPhone and iPod docking/charging stations.
“The locker room is something we had to fit in and get done by July,” associate athletic director for facilities Dan Patko said. “It will have all the amenities. It will be state of the art.”
Head coach Urban Meyer wasn’t a fan of the old boomerang setup. Now, the team will be in a more central location, allowing easier communication points for coaches.
The indoor practice field is also being replaced for the first time since 2003, as well as one of the outdoor playing surfaces.
“We always have to make sure product life cycles are met an we have to make sure it’s safe for the student-athlete,” Patko said. “If a turf field is beyond 8-10 years of life, we have to make sure it’s safe. We have to check the hardness and all that.”
Stadiums are still important in wooing recruits. But practice facilities are becoming increasingly vital. Renovations and other construction projects are becoming a constant in college football. Oregon, Alabama and Tennessee are three schools that have done recent projects on football-specific buildings.
Oregon’s 145,000-square-foot Hatfield-Dowlin Complex cost $68 million.
“I don’t like to make too many comments about Oregon. Oregon’s what they are,” Patko said. “We’re going to put together a very nice locker room for the Buckeyes, and this locker room will have all the amenities and all the fancy things you need to make sure everyone is comfortable in that locker room. It will also be functional. Part of a locker room and the importance is that it has to be comfortable for student-athlete. A lot of things we do around here, the funding we get, is to improve things for the student-athlete.”
Just five years ago, when Michigan completed the Al Glick Fieldhouse, a 104,000-square-foot facility at a cost of $26 million, it was considered one of the sport’s crown jewels. But like cell phone technology, numerous features in football facilities become obsolete during the first season.
It’s created an arms race that’s spiraling out of control. The biggest impact zone is recruiting. Schools are in the business of extravagance, luxury and opulence in the name of attracting four- and five-star players.
“A lot of what you see in some places is plainly addressing deferred maintenance,” Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith told Eleven Warriors in April. “Typically when you deal with deferred maintenance you also make improvements that help current athletes and help in recruiting. Athletics is no different than engineering or medicine, to attract the best and retain the best, you have to have the resources, which include facilities.”
Dating to 2001, Ohio State has spent nearly $250 million on upgrades to football facilities. In that same time frame, Big Ten member universities have spent more than $1.5 billion on new or upgraded football venues, ranging from a new stadium (Minnesota) to new practice facilities to state-of-the-art scoreboards. And from 1995-2005, costs on athletic facilities across the country were greater than $15 billion.
Said Patko: “A lot of what we do relates back to the student-athlete, making sure we’re always revitalizing, always looking forward and always looking for renewal.”