It’s been less than a year since the Virginia Tech football team moved into a brand new, $18 million locker room. But on Saturday, athletic department officials made public their plans to add a new, and even more costly, amenity to the school’s athletic campus.
With Rector Field House out of date, and featuring a ceiling too low to practice punts in, Virginia Tech is forging ahead with plans to construct a new on-campus indoor practice facility to be used primarily by the football team.
Associate athletic director Tom Gabbard, who is in charge of overseeing Virginia Tech’s athletic facilities, said plans call for the entire project to cost $25 million. The price tag includes a renovation of Rector Field House, which was built in 1971.
“When we get that, I truly think we will have the best facilities in the country,” Coach Frank Beamer said.
Said Gabbard: “It’s all about raising the money. As soon as we get $25 million, we’ll build it,” He added that $5 million in private donations have already been pledged, and an additional $2-3 million is “in the bank.”
Even without full funding, though, the project will continue to move forward. Gabbard said the school will settle on a design consultant in September. From there, several teams of architects and builders will be enlisted to come up with proposals and they would have 90 days to present their plans to a committee of school officials.
Construction, however, will not begin until the $25 million is raised.
Gabbard said he’ll leave the designing to the professionals, but that he wants to “look over there and have a building that’s attractive. We’ll have a pretty nice façade on the front and it’s gotta be big – 60, 70, 80 feet in the air so you can kick in it.”
Plans also call for state of the art audio/visual equipment to be inside the new facility. Gabbard hopes “to get cameras all over that building so you can even stop a piece of practice and take two lineman over and show them a technique and it’s right there.”
Gabbard has already toured Air Force’s new $15 million indoor practice facility, as well as the New England Patriots indoor facility. He’s also seen video of the Atlanta Falcons’facility — “Frank really liked that one,” — and plans to go visit a couple more during the coming months.
Virginia Tech’s new indoor facility will be located in a wooded area adjacent to the Hokies outdoor football practice fields, just beyond the north end zone of Lane Stadium. Gabbard said part of the project will involve removing 30 feet of elevation and moving approximately 80,000 cubic yards of dirt from the woods.
Currently the Hokies use Rector Field House when inclement weather prevents them from practicing outdoors, but they share the facility with several other Virginia Tech teams, most notably track and field. The new indoor facility would also be used by the women’s lacrosse and soccer teams, while also allowing the track and field team more access to Rector Field House.
Gabbard seems well aware, though, that with the ever-present college football arms race, this likely isn’t the last big facilities project the athletic department will undertake.
“As soon as you build them, somebody’s building one better,” Gabbard said. “It’s a constant battle, facilities are always gonna be. If you’re not growing, you’re dying sort of thing. But it would be huge. It would really put an icing on the cake for us.”