As South Carolina athletics director Ray Tanner welcomed media members to a tour of the Gamecocks new $50 million football operations building, he already was anticipating what some of the reaction to the building might be.
“You are going to have cynics, you are going to have people saying, ‘Is this really necessary?’ ” Tanner said Monday.
Yes, it was, South Carolina coach Will Muschamp said.
The Cyndi and Kenneth Long Family Football Operations Center brings everything Gamecock football under one roof for the first time in the program’s history. The team’s fractured facilities, with coaches’ offices and the locker room on opposite ends of Williams-Brice Stadium and the practice fields a 10-minute walk from both, was a club used against the team in recruiting, Muschamp said.
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“It was a big obstacle,” Muschamp said.
In its place is a 110,000-square-foot building that the team moved into in stages starting in January.
“Everything in this place is phenomenal,” Tanner said. “In many ways, (the old arrangement) wasn’t efficient enough or effective enough.”
The building features a 26,000-square-foot, two-story weight room with sliding garage bay doors that open onto the practice field. It includes custom-made weight racks designed and built by Sorinex.
“I told them, ‘Make something that has never been made before,’ and they did,” head strength coach Jeff Dillman said.
The Gamecocks’ new locker room has a game room, a 15-seat movie theater, a barbershop and the Darius Rucker recording studio, where one player recently stayed until 4:30 a.m., necessitating new closing hours on the room, Muschamp said.
“We’ve got to get a little bit more sleep,” he joked.
The lobby of the building has a replica of George Rogers’ Heisman Trophy, a 12-foot by 27-foot video display made of thirty-six 55-inch televisions and a 20-foot tall block C logo. The player entry hall features an interactive NFL display with a helmet from each NFL team that will display the former Gamecocks who have played for that team. In the future, those players will be projected onto a mirrored surface, which can be changed to show the reflection of a recruit along with the words, “You’re Next.”
“Certainly in the recruiting process, (the building) has helped us with the young men we have had on campus and their families,” Muschamp said.
The current players also have enjoyed it, he said. More than 50 players were in the weight room on Saturday morning when the team didn’t have anything scheduled, Dillman said.
“That says a lot about wanting to be in the building,” Muschamp said. “They want to be here, and I want them to want to be in our building and be around us as coaches. I think that helps the culture of your program.”
About the new facility
What: The Cyndi and Kenneth Long Family Football Operations Center
Where it is: At the rear of Gamecock Park and adjacent to the indoor practice facility. The new building overlooks the outdoor practice fields and has a direct view of Williams-Brice Stadium.
Cost: $50 million
Overall square footage: 110,000 square feet
Architects: Quackenbush Architects + Planners; and Gensler Sports
General contractor: Contract Construction
Branding design: Jack Porter