Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Athletics Facilities Makeover: Vanderbilt Edition

I had a chance to watch the Vanderbilt press conference outlining the facility upgrade plan yesterday and came away very impressed.

You had the who's who of Vanderbilt in attendance -- Vice Chancellor of University Affairs and Student Athletics David Williams, Board of Trust Athletics Committee Chair John Ingram, football coach Bobby Johnson, men's basketball coach Kevin Stallings and women's basketball coach Melanie Balcomb -- all sounding optimistic about this university's future.

Sure, Vanderbilt may never win the "arms race" of athletics facilities, particularly in the sports-obsessed and booster-rich Southeastern Conference, but we don't want to, nor could we afford to. What this project proves to me, as well as the coaches in attendance, is that the administration is committed to winning and providing the programs with the necessary resources to do so, which is all you can ever ask for.

"I'm really pleased that over the last five or 10 years we have changed the perception of Vanderbilt from lovable losers to serious competitors," Ingram said. "That's what we want to be and I think that's where we'll stay."

With improved facilities, coaches believe that their programs will be able to take the next step. For Balcomb and Stallings, it's getting from the Sweet 16 to the Final Four (Stallings is already talking national titles). For Johnson, it's qualifying for a bowl game. Corbin has already seen what renovations can do for his program. The improvements to Hawkins Field have enabled him to attract the nation's top recruits and thus contend for a national title year in and year out.

Here's Vanderbilt's five-phase, $55-million, self-funded project:

Phase I - $11 million-$12 million (currently under way)

• Memorial Gym Basketball Locker Rooms
• Vanderbilt Stadium Facility Renovation:
Work will include a new exterior stadium facade between Gates 2 and 3; renovation of the eastside stadium concourse; and exterior/interior paint and interior signage to Stadium Press Box/Suite Tower
• Hawkins Field Baseball Stadium Expansion: $3 million-$3.3 million
• Football Synthetic Surfaces at John Rich Practice Facility and Wedgewood Recreation Field: $2 million

Phase II - $11 million-$12 million

• McGugin Center Renovation:
Work will include construction of the Vanderbilt Athletics Hall of Fame, renovation of position and team meeting rooms for football, and renovation of the athletic training room.
• Vanderbilt Stadium Renovation:
Work will include rebuilding of Gates 2 and 3; exterior facade along Natchez Trace; and development of a plaza in front of Gate 2.

Phase III - $7 million-$8 million

• Vanderbilt Stadium:
Plans call for the renovation of Gates 1 and 4 in north endzone of stadium along with construction of plaza area.
• McGugin Center:
First phase of renovation to support staff of Stratton Foster Academic Center area, and renovation to football coaches' offices, support staff offices and coaches' locker rooms.

Phase IV - $16 million-$18 million

• Vanderbilt Stadium:
Work will include construction of north endzone building and seating; addition of synthetic turf in stadium.
• McGugin Center:
Renovation of the football locker rooms, equipment rooms, and athletic training room; Olympic Sport locker rooms and meeting rooms will be constructed on second floor.

Phase V - $1 million-$2 million

• McGugin Center:
Renovation and expansion of Hendrix Room dining facility; addition of offices and suites.

Thanks to VUCommodores, which has all the latest on the project:

Facilities Upgrade Central (pictures, videos, timeline, etc.)
Official Press Release
Quotes from press conference

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