“We Need More Square Footage”: Gene Smith Says Ohio State is Exploring Plans to Renovate Woody Hayes Athletic Center

By Chase Brown on April 18, 2024 at 6:03 pm
Inside the Woody Hayes Athletic Center

Dedicated in 1987, the Woody Hayes Athletic Center has housed Ohio State football for almost 40 years. However, as the school’s athletic department charts a course ahead for the program, it’s unclear how much longer the Buckeyes will remain in the building.

On Thursday, Ohio State celebrated Gene Smith at the Fawcett Center in Columbus, honoring his 19-year career as its athletic director. After an hour-long conversation with Doug Lesmerises, Smith fielded questions from reporters, one of which asked him whether Ohio State will still participate in the “facilities arms race” in college football and how it could impact the football team’s future in the WHAC.

“It’s all semantics. We were in an arms race, but we were just trying to be functional. You go into the Woody Hayes, and you see how beautiful it is. But we’re putting lipstick on it right now,” Smith said. “When I came in ’05, we didn’t have a recruiting department, and we didn’t have a creative services department. We didn’t have the sports science people that we have (now). We didn’t have all the modalities and the training. We need more square footage. That’s practical. That’s not like an arms race. It’s not because Alabama’s got it. It’s just the practical reality.”

Smith mentioned that the WHAC has become overcrowded due to the addition of roles like offensive and defensive analysts, quality control coaches and other part-time assistant positions. In some cases, Ohio State has transformed rooms the size of closets into offices.

“We need more square footage,” Smith reiterated.

Smith said the athletic department is “still talking about” proposals to expand the WHAC but that it plans to present a proposal to the Board of Trustees in May.

The athletic department’s most recent renovation of the WHAC occurred in 2019. The building received a new dining and kitchen area, a new lounge, a basketball court with arcade games and a hallway that featured Ohio State memorabilia and walls dedicated to The Game and Buckeyes in the NFL.

“The addition is huge for us. It’s really catapulting us in recruiting, which is really important,” Ohio State head coach Ryan Day said in August 2019. “We give and create an environment which is one of the best in the country in terms of taking care of a student-athlete on the field, off the field. … With something like that, it’s huge. Guys come here, play arcades, shoot baskets, play on the golf simulator and recover on the cryo. We want them to feel like this is their home.”

Ohio State’s Framework 3.0 includes information about future developments in the Athletic District, including “an ice arena and Woody Hayes Complex addition.” While Framework 3.0 calls the addition one of its “planning priorities,” it provides no additional information regarding the cost or timeline of the WHAC’s expansion.

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