Erik Kimrey didn’t feel any jealousy this week when he toured South Carolina’s new $50 million football operations building.
“But I certainly compared the two,” said Kimrey, a quarterback for the Gamecocks from 2000-2002 and now the head coach at Hammond School in Columbia.
South Carolina’s coaches and support staff moved into the Cyndi and Kenneth Long Family Football Operations Center last week and most of the current players toured the facility over the weekend.
“I am happy for the university and the players,” said Kimrey, the host of the “Fade In” podcast. “It’s unbelievably impressive. It is kind of comical to think back about where we lived and what these guys get to experience. It’s beyond impressive and I think the first thing that comes to mind is it signifies the level of commitment that our administration has to football and putting a successful product on the field.”
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Kimrey toured the building with former teammate Ryan Brewer, a running back from 1999-2002.
“You are kind of in shock and awe saying, ‘We were in The Roost,’” Brewer said. “There is really no reason to leave that place at all. It’s more than a home away from home. It’s got the total package there. It’s pretty unbelievable. It’s been a topic of conversation for years. We were trying to recruit young men into facilities that were not up to par in the SEC. Now we are there. I think the world of this coaching staff and what a help this has to be.”
The building’s opening has gotten attention outside of Columbia, too.
“There hasn’t been a facilities upgrade of this magnitude in college football maybe ever,” Senior Bowl executive director Jim Nagy tweeted Sunday. “It’s crazy how far behind the competition (Gamecocks football) was in this area. Can’t wait to see what (Will Muschamp) and his staff will do in recruiting these next couple years.”
The 110,000-square foot building includes a locker room, weight room, recruiting center, athletic training room, coaches’ offices, meeting rooms, multiple dining areas, player lounges, a barbershop and a music recording studio.
It also includes a locker room where former USC players can shower after a workout in the building, which a letterman like Kimrey considered a nice touch.
“That’s something that’s a new mindset with Will Muschamp’s staff is to really try to include the former players as much as possible,” Kimrey said.
The building includes four dining areas and a weight room that is arranged diagonally to maximize space, Kimrey said.
“I love the way the weight room is set up,” he said.
As the head coach of one of the state’s most successful high school programs, Kimrey also can view the building through a recruiting lens, and he thinks it will make a difference for some recruits.
“I think it really depends on each kid,” he said. “I think what it does is speak to the level of commitment that that university has. As a player, if you went in and the facilities weren’t up to par, that might be an unconscious signal to a player that this university may not be as committed to winning as others.”
“It has got to be a recruiting dream to be able to bring kids and parents in there and say, ‘We’re going to take care of you,’” Brewer said.
The new building officially culminates a vast football facilities upgrade that has included new living quarters for the players and the refurbishment of the area around Williams-Brice Stadium.
“It takes the underlying commitment to happen first but now you have the physical structure that suggests that South Carolina is a program with a really bright future,” Kimrey said. ”I know when I was at South Carolina we were always at the bottom of the SEC in terms of facilities.
“There has been a catching-up process that I feel like now is over.”