“When a young man and his family come on our campus, they see what we are building and they see that we are serious about winning a championship,” Gamecocks coach Will Muschamp said Wednesday as school officials offered tours of their soon-to-be completed football operations building. “In order to win a championship, you’ve got to spend money. Just call it like it is, and that’s what we’re doing. That’s what (athletics director Ray) Tanner is committed to doing, (USC president Harris) Pastides and our entire board. It’s exciting to be a head coach at a place like that.”
The 110,000-square-foot facility is scheduled to be completed by the end of December, and it will come in under the original budget of $50 million, Muschamp stressed several times during his remarks. The building is adjacent to the Gamecocks’ indoor practice facility and outdoor practice fields behind Gamecock Park, and its impending opening has made a significant impact already on the team’s recruiting, Muschamp said.
“It’s a wow factor,” he said. “Recruits walk in and they look around and they say, ‘This is big time. This rivals what they have other places.’ The people that help them make the decision, they have the wow factor as well. They see it and they go, ‘This is big time, this is what I want my son to be a part of.’”
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The building will include a 20,000-square foot weight room that is triple the size of the team’s current weight room, a 4,000-square-foot cardio balcony overlooking the weight room, coaches offices, team meeting rooms, staff offices and meeting rooms, multiple nutrition stations, a dining room and dining balcony and training room with hot tub, cold tub and Swim-Ex rehabilitation pool.
“The goal was to be state-of-the-art,” said Doug Quackenbush, president of Quackenbush Architects and Planners, which designed the facility along with Gensler Sports. “The goal wasn’t to catch up. It was to jump ahead, and we think we’ve done that.”
The building will include more than 300 televisions, a player lounge with video game area, a 15-seat movie theater with reclining seats, a video arcade, a sound studio with equipment provided by celebrity USC fan Darius Rucker and a barber shop.
“The bells and whistles are important,” Muschamp said. “You may not believe in them, but recruits do, and you’ve got to be able to show investment. Then you have to show results as well.”
The building’s lobby, which will include a 20-foot tall Block C logo, touchscreen video boards and a presentation area for George Rogers’ Heisman Trophy, will be open to the public free of charge year-round during normal business hours. The building will be named the Cyndi and Kenneth Long Family Football Operations Center after a large donation by the Long family. Construction began in March 2017, but the initial planning for the building began before Muschamp was hired in December 2015.
“It’s about dedication and commitment to your football program,” Tanner said. “It’s not about winning all the time or being first, it’s, ‘Do you have an opportunity?’ Sitting in my chair, that’s what drives me, ‘Do we put them in a good enough position?’ We needed a football operations building. When you build a facility like this, it shows commitment and dedication, and then you don’t worry about any negativity there. When (recruits) go to other schools, they can’t say, ‘Well South Carolina really doesn’t have what other schools have.’ It’s been very important to me that that gets eliminated in all sports.”
Muschamp was heavily involved in the building’s design, Tanner said, and representatives from Gensler Sports toured more than 30 other buildings to get ideas for South Carolina’s building, Quackenbush said.
“I said to (Muschamp), ‘If you’re willing to invest your time, you can have your fingerprints all over this building,’ and he was excited about it,” Tanner said. “He spent more time than I could tell you in the intimate details of getting this project the way he wanted it.”
The football operations center continues a building spree by the university that has included the Dodie Anderson Academic Enrichment Center and 650 Lincoln housing area for student-athletes in recent years. However, Muschamp stressed it doesn’t end the process.
“You are always building. There is no last piece,” he said. “You are continuing to move and improve.”