After more than two years of protests and petitions, Virginia Tech football can finally build its indoor practice facility.
A building and grounds committee of the school’s Board of Visitors unanimously approved the construction of a $25 million indoor football facility on a portion of the team’s existing outdoor practice fields Monday. The location was a compromise between Virginia Tech’s athletic department and a environmentalist group that protested the initial site proposed for the project.
Virginia Tech’s original plan, announced in August 2011, called for the indoor practice facility to be built on a three-acre portion of Stadium Woods, which forestry experts consider an old-growth forest on campus. A petition started by the “Friends of Stadium Woods” had more than 10,000 signatures and the plan had detractors inside and outside the university community.
A committee formed by university president Charles Steger recommended last August that the athletic department find a different location for the indoor facility.
“It’s the first time we’ve run into any opposition when it comes to site selection,” said associate athletic director Tom Gabbard, who came to Virginia Tech with Athletic Director Jim Weaver in 1998. “To their credit, they were highly organized and caused people to re-think the way they thought about things and caused us to re-think things. And with the help of them we were able to come up with this compromise that works for us and works for them.
“If we we were to do it again, we wouldn’t want to do it that way.”
Gabbard’s “optimistic” projection is that site work will begin in early 2014 and the indoor football facility will be completed in time for the 2015 football season. The project will be privately funded and the school currently has $11 million in pledges.
Virginia’s recently constructed indoor practice facility, which opened last winter, cost approximately $14.7 million, including debt service.
Virginia Tech’s plans also call for the renovations of Rector Field House, most notably the installation of a permanent indoor track, and the addition of a softball hitting area. But Gabbard said money will first be allocated toward the indoor football facility in case the project runs into any other issues.
The new indoor football facility, which will include state-of-the-art audio and visual equipment, will be approximately 210 feet wide and 400 feet long. It will sit along the east side of Virginia Tech’s outdoor practice fields and Gabbard said there will be enough room for one 100-yard outdoor field or two fields of 75 and 65 yards, depending on what direction the fields are lined.
Weaver said in a news release the indoor practice facility would also be used by the school’s lacrosse, baseball and softball programs during inclement weather.
Weaver noted Monday that he first got approval in 1998 from then-president Dr. Paul Torgersen to build an indoor practice facility. His wait is almost over.
“It’s the first facility I identified when I first got here, and it’s become the last one to get built,” Weaver said. “But I’m glad we’re going to get it done. It’s something I think is needed and is really going to benefit us.”