The Ohio State Athletic Department is attempting to keep pace with programs around the country.
To do so, it is in the process of fundraising for a new $22 million practice facility for men’s and women’s basketball.
The facility will be one of a kind, the only one in the country with two full practice courts for the men’s program and two full practice courts for the women’s program, said Pat Chun, associate athletic director for External Relations.
Having multiple courts for each team will increase their flexibility. Practice times are constantly changing in the current setup, which is difficult because there needs to be a three-hour time lapse between men’s and women’s practices, women’s Coach Jim Foster said.
The new facility will allow for more leeway in practice scheduling as opposed to one practice in the morning and one in the evening, said Ben Jay, associate athletic director of Finance and Operations.
“This will help us with class scheduling for student-athletes because it‘ll give us a little more flexibility,” Jay said.
The new practice facility will not only be beneficial in terms of practice and class scheduling of current athletes, but also in the recruiting of new athletes.
“From a recruiting standpoint, coach (Thad) Matta is competing against Duke, North Carolina, Michigan State and Kentucky for all these tier-one recruits,” Chun said. “This facility is at par with those facilities.”
The fact that it is on par with other elite programs is no mistake.
Matta, Foster and other individuals in the administration spent a day flying to Georgia, Kentucky and Michigan State to tour their new facilities.
“We got a great opportunity to evaluate what was good about theirs and ask them if they had to do it over what would they do differently,” Foster said.
One member of the trip was Cihangir Calis, the senior project manager of the new facility.
“We kind of got to see firsthand what some other schools have recently done to improve space for the student-athletes,” Calis said.
Athletic Director Gene Smith was not only concerned about keeping pace with other programs, but properly honoring Ohio State as well.
“If you’re a basketball fan, where do you go to see all the great trophies? There is not a single spot where the 1960 National Championship trophy can go where people can see and touch it and take pictures with it. There are a lot of things around that that we’re adding,” he said.
Currently, there is no place to put Evan Turner’s Player of the Year Award either, Smith said.
Though prestige was important, the input of current student-athletes was also taken into account.
“We really wanted to get a sense of what they wanted. We just didn’t want to design something based on what we thought,” said Wesley Pediger from Moody Nolan Inc, the architectural firm in charge of the project. “They did have a core group of athletes that were asked, ‘What would you like to see? What kind of things if you were to go into a new facility would be great for you?’ It’s great to get ideas from them.”
The fact that Moody Nolan was also the architect firm involved in the original construction of the Schottenstein Center was instrumental in coordinating the practice facility designs with that of the arena, Pediger said.
With the input from athletes and coaches, the design team developed some interesting features.
The woodwork of the circular lobby floor replicates a basketball and the ceiling extends upward in a cone to the second floor lobby. The cone represents a basketball net, Pediger said.
The locker rooms are also circular, so that the athletes can all be seated at their lockers with the coach in the middle speaking to all of them, he said.
These design features were only one concern of the designers. Finding the right location for the addition was also an issue.
“One of our first challenges was, we are building over the existing loading dock, which you don’t do,” Pediger said. “It was a major challenge, there are still thoughts … is this really the best idea? Is this the best location for this?”
Despite the uncertainty, the west side of the arena above the loading dock was the best option, said Calis.
“Land is a premium, there’s not any of it. When you look at the options we had … It was the best solution,” he said. “We’re building a building on stilts.”
Building in such a way will add to the overall cost of the project, Pediger said.
Despite the added cost of the location, there were cost-cutting measures taken.
For one, they downsized the lobby.
“We took a look at each and every design piece,” Jay said. “We took a look at, ‘Do we really need this space? Do we really need the graphics that go with it?'”
No matter what the needs, the project is far from funded.
As it stands, OSU basketball fans will have to wait to find a place to enjoy the team’s history and the teams will have to wait for a new place to practice.