When a thunderstorm moved through Charlottesville during a Virginia football training camp practice Aug. 7, the Cavaliers were forced to continue their workout on the bare, cement floors of a vacant John Paul Jones Arena, the school’s basketball facility. It wasn’t an idea situation, and Coach Mike London was visibly frustrated by his lack of options in the event of inclement weather when asked about it the following day.
If all goes as planned, London and the football program will have an indoor practice facility to turn to within the next few years. London said in a teleconference Thursday that the proposed indoor practice facility will serve dual purposes: It will allow his team to train in a suitable environment regardless of the weather conditions, and it will offer his program another valuable recruiting tool.
In recruiting, London said, relationships and opportunity to play matter to prospects, but “after a while they want to see where they’re playing, where they’re practicing, what they’re wearing, the training facilities that they have. And let’s face it, in today’s culture, in today’s society, with young men that are coming out, they’re looking to see the benefits that are provided for them. . . .
“If you’re going to compete for championships and try to attract the top-level student-athletes that are out there, then some of the things they look at and use in terms of their decision on where they’re going is where do you train? How do you train? If inclement weather occurs, where can you go? What’s your weight room look like? Things like that. It’s important to answer that question with up-to-date facilities.”
A report on VirginiaSports.com published Thursday prior to London’s teleconference pegged the cost of the project at $13 million and noted that $5 million was pledged toward it in June by a single donor. The facility is scheduled to be constructed to cover one of the two practice fields on which the football team currently practices.
The university’s Board of Visitors will meet Sept. 15-16, and the proposal for the indoor facility will be reviewed during that time. Jon Oliver, Virginia’s executive associate athletic director, told VirginiaSports.com he would prefer to have fundraising for the project completed by December or January and that “in an ideal world” the project would be completed by August 2013 “at the latest.”
An athletics department spokesman said Thursday that Oliver was unavailable for interview because he was not feeling well and was out of the office.
Fellow ACC schools Duke and Georgia Tech recently opened indoor practice facilities. Other ACC schools such as Clemson, Florida State and Virginia Tech have plans in place for new indoor practice facilities, as well.
London said in his Thursday teleconference that there are also preliminary plans to give the weight room at McCue Center – the football team’s headquarters – a “facelift, so to speak.”
The absence of an indoor practice facility has been an issue for the football program for years, London said, dating back to his time as an assistant at Virginia from 2001 to 2004. After he was hired as the Cavalier’s head coach in December 2009, London said, he sat down with Oliver and Virginia Athletic Director Craig Littlepage to discuss the program’s needs moving forward. An indoor practice facility was near the top of the list.
“I don’t know if that’s lobbying for it, but they asked the question and you give an honest answer about it,” London said Thursday. “I think [Oliver and Littlepage] have spearheaded that part of it. I’m trying to get the players ready to play in games and rely on their leadership to take what they’ve asked me, and perhaps even some of the other sports here on grounds, to say, ‘What do we need?’
“And I think that’s how it starts bubbling and starts coming to the surface, and I think we’re where we are right now because of it.”