KNOXVILLE, Tenn. | Tennessee coach Derek Dooley and other athletic officials have made late changes to upgrade plans for a football facility that add nearly $9 million to the cost of the project.
Tennessee has been planning a $39 million addition to the Brenda Lawson Athletic Center that would add locker rooms, a weight room and training space to the building that houses administrative staff.
Athletic director Mike Hamilton said he and other department officials asked coach Derek Dooley for his suggestions on the design in January, and Dooley suggested some changes to the planned weight room and layout of the new space.
“I'm a big believer that this is a facility that our coaches and student-athletes are going to live in every day, so I thought (Dooley) should have some input,” Hamilton said. “Each coach has certain things that are important to them.”
Other athletic officials suggested adding a new outdoor plaza honoring Volunteers in the College Football Hall of Fame.
The now $48 million project is being funded by athletic department donors, and the department has pledges of $32.5 million so far. The department expects to have contractors bid on the construction project in the fall.
The new space will also include a new training room, locker rooms and meeting rooms.
Chris Fuller, Tennessee's senior associate athletic director for external operations, said one of Dooley's suggestions was to group all of the rooms used by the athletes in the same area of the building rather than to keep them spread out around the building as was originally planned.
“If you look at the floor plan and the flow of the building, I think it's going to make a huge difference,” Fuller said. “If we had build the building as it was originally designed, we would have probably had to go back and change some things in the future.”
Planning for the facility began while Phillip Fulmer was coach, and both Fulmer and successor Lane Kiffin made their own suggestions. A 10,341-square-footage increase and changes to the interior added approximately $4.5 million to the cost. Additional furniture, decor and weight and training equipment added $2.2 million, the Hall of Fame plaza an additional $1.5 million and creating the new design cost $730,000.
Hamilton said he expects the project to be completed for less than the $8.9 million estimate. he university attempts to overestimate the cost a bit when seeking approval from the State Building Commission to cover unexpected costs, though most of the department's construction projects have come in under cost in the past few years.
The Brenda Lawson Athletic Center, which connects to Tennessee's indoor football practice field, opened in 2006 to help replace the now 52-year-old Stokely Athletic Center, after the fire marshal prohibited the building's use for any athletic or spectator events.
“This is a facility that's a marquis building for us, and as I've often said, football is the engine driving our financial train,” Hamilton said.