It takes a village to build a new football facility, as Utah football operations director Jeff Rudy has learned. Major input and help on the Utes' new home came from every wing of the athletic department, the athletic director himself, Kyle Whittingham, coaches, players, university administration, outside construction and graphics firms.
Announced in March of 2011 as a $16 million, 57,640-square foot facility, the project has nearly tripled in size and doubled in cost since then and Rudy has been at the center of the building every step of the way. Slated to open in July, the cleverly-titled Football Center will stand at 149,000 square feet with a cost of nearly $32 million.
As Rudy shared his experience to a room of his peers Monday at the annual DFO conference, he said the first order of business was to identify what your program needs in its new house. For Utah, that meant they had to have, for example, more meeting space, more offices and an expanded Hall of Fame area, a cafe, increased security measures and a more ADA accessible facility.
The next step is picking a location. Some in the athletic department wanted to build an entirely new structure. Athletic director Dr. Chris Hill thought that, since the department had recently expanded the weight room, they should stay where they are. Lo and behold, Utah is leveling its old facility and staying put.
Once those lines were crossed, it was time to pick a contractor and build the thing. For Rudy, that meant meetings, meetings and more meetings. Meetings on top of meetings. Meetings about meetings. There were lots and lots of meetings no matter the time of year, which meant Rudy was essentially working two and a half full-time jobs once fall camp started. This is the time you want to get everything finalized because, as Rudy said, "change orders will be the death of your project."
In those meetings, it was decided the front of the facility would be a glass box with a large video screen that could show highlights and other clips recruits and visitors would find interesting at all hours of the night. "The building had to recruit when no one's around," Rudy said. Ultimately, the glass box would prove to be impossible to heat in the winter and cool in the summer, so they had to give it a roof. Even with a roof, the facility will still be a 24/7 recruiting tool. "We were looking for the 'damn' factor, not the 'wow' factor," said Rudy.
Eventually it became time to build, which meant everyone had to get out of the old building and move into a temporary facility. As the team broke for spring break, Rudy instructed the coaches and other staff members to mark what they wanted moved to the temporary facility by Friday, March 9, and when they came back on Monday after spring break, everything would be in their temporary offices. The coaching staff has worked from those trailers-turned-offices for over a year now.
The much-anticipated move in date is now just weeks away and the Utes can't wait to settle in to their new home. Thanks to everyone involved in Utah Athletics tireless work over the last two-plus years, they feel that Utah's Football Center will be the best college football has to offer. That is, as Rudy laughed, "until the next one comes out."