NEW YORK, September 4, 2013 — College football facilities can shape everything from recruitment to player motivation. Increasingly, colleges are investing millions of dollars to create the most cutting-edge facilities.
This move has been derisively dubbed the “arms race” in the sports media, but there is a method to the madness. Colleges that commit resources to creating the best football facilities have calculated that making these investments will help colleges recruit and retain the best of the best.
Compiled here are the top ten college football facilities from around the country.
The Crimson Tide’s football facility is the gold standard. Alabama has invested in jaw-dropping details like an entire climate controlled room built just for player shoes. There is also a funky players’ lounge that is a man cave on steroids, complete with high tech arcade games, foosball, big screen TVs, and pool tables. The lobby features innovative displays, like a wall of first round NFL jerseys. The school has even provided a 30-foot hot tub for players to soak their aching muscles.
In an effort to drive its football program forward, Oregon has just completed the $69-million Hatfield-Dowlin Complex, thanks to a major donation from Phil Knight, Oregon alum and founder of Nike. The building is sure to be the envy of football programs across the country with its sleek, stylish and plush interiors, which include Nike leather walls. State-of-the-art is an understatement here with locker rooms that are entered through a sophisticated biometric system, and where the ring room displaying bowl and championship rings is outfitted with theatrical LED lighting and 3D sound. Player amenities are plentiful, including a barbershop that offers student rates for cuts.
With a price tag of $70 million, the John McKay Center at USC is one of the country’s most expensive facilities. The 110,000-square-foot facility has been designed to tell the storied history of the Trojans. The Trojan sword sculpture that was erected last year outside the stadium has already become a touchstone for players who tap it for good luck before games and for fans who pose beside it for photos. The entire building is outfitted with high tech visual elements from streaming video on lobby walls to iPads mounted in each locker so that players can monitor schedules.
Georgia’s Sanford Stadium is widely recognized as one of the best in the SEC. Now the newly renovated Butts-Mehre Heritage Hall has matched that standard of excellence with supercharged player amenities like state-of-the-art fitness equipment, oversized plasma TV screens, iPod charging stations, and a downright spa-like aqua therapy room. Lobby walls are dedicated to football legends from the school, including Bulldog mascot history.
The Woody Hayes Athletic Center at Ohio State got a $19.5 million facelift that emphasizes the prowess of the Buckeyes. There are sleek new weight rooms, meeting rooms, training fields and even smart retail-inspired displays of memorabilia that reveals the traditions and history of the football program. Perhaps the favorite space among players is a cushy second story lounge called Sloopy’s Hangout.
The 80,000-square-foot Leo Seal Jr. Football Complex at Mississippi State University, which opened at the beginning of this year, captures the essence of what it is to be a Bulldog. The lobby wall is emblazoned with six-foot high letters spelling out Hail State and bold graphics of players. Cultural traditions, like the school’s cowbell, have been reimagined in clever ways, such as becoming lighting fixtures. There is a 12,000-square foot conditioning center and players each have their docking stations in their lockers for charging their mobile devices.
Auburn made a major, much-needed investment in its football program when it swapped out its 40-yard indoor practice field for a 100-yard practice field. Its bold orange and blue color scheme paired with its iconic Tiger imagery has boosted team pride. The school’s $16.5 million investment also went to upgrade the weight and locker rooms, both of which now feature motivational prompts like “Hard Work” and “Commitment.”
Tennessee’s coach Derek Dooley believes the new $42 million facility is now equal to Neyland Stadium, which seats 100,000. There are museum-quality galleries lining the walls, which highlight champions and championships, a restaurant with a nutrition bar for players and charging stations for players’ electronics in every cubicle. Perhaps most unusual is the mixed martial arts cage, designed for football players to burn off a little aggression and energy.
Bryant Football Complex at Texas A&M has stepped up its game. The Aggies are once again leaders in the new generation of football facilities with carefully crafted features like 28 individual meeting rooms with screens for each position coach to review player video. There are solid oak lockers in the changing room, which happens to be one of the largest in the country. There is also a 15,000-square foot training room along with a showroom containing more than 2,000 pairs of Adidas footwear.
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