The University of Toledo opened a beautiful state of the art football complex in 1990, a structure with cool trappings making the Rockets the envy of less fortunate teams.
The facility is no longer beautiful or state of the art. No one envies it.
But wait until July when the university finishes pouring $5 million and about 10,000 square feet into the 23-year-old Larimer Athletic Complex. University officials on Tuesday released their renovation plans, which in one word can be described as bigger. There will be more space for meetings, studying, recruiting, weight training, hanging equipment, and decorations.
“We’ve outgrown the building,” athletic director Mike O’Brien told a room of alumni and friends of the university.
Construction will begin about Feb. 1, starting with inside remodeling. Modifications to the building’s exterior could begin in April — weather permitting — and should be completed by mid-July in time for fall camp. In the mean time, coaches will work from the Glass Bowl press tower. Weight room equipment will move across the street to the Health Education Center. Functions of the academic center will shift to the library.
About $2 million for the project still must be raised, but O’Brien is confident.
“We have a lot of asks out there that people are talking about within their own families and will get back to us,” he said.
The Sullivans, Chuck and Jackie, pledged $1.5 million, earmarking half for the renovation and the other half to be used for coaching bonuses across all sports at the university. Among others who gave a major gift were Roy and Marcia Armes.
“When this facility opened it was one of the best facilities around,” said Jason Toth, associate vice president for facilities and construction. “Now you walk around and you just say, how could this have been one of the best facilities around?”
Meeting areas will expand, with the main coaching room increasing by four times the current space. Coach Matt Campbell and his staff of 15 or so cram into a room engineered for eight.
The weight room will grow twice in size and will feature more windows to promote natural sunlight.
“It’s not a very attractive place,” O’Brien said. “It’s kind of dark and dingy.”
There also will be a new recruiting lounge, which O’Brien refers to as the “closing room.”
The locker room will expand to include 20 additional lockers, bringing the total to 120.
The academic center will grow, creating space for tutor rooms. The center is used by all Toledo athletes, not just football players.
Toledo leaned on the trusted combination SSOE of Toledo and AECOM of Kansas City to design the project. Those companies worked on the $30 million Savage Arena renovation in 2008.
Other upgrades include a new entryway with floor-to-ceiling graphics and displays and a new field entrance beneath the scoreboard.
“The facility, while it’s been very functional, is very plain,” said Toth, who will serve as project manager. “When you walk into the facility there’s no pizzazz. We’re enhancing that dynamic to catch up with other Division I colleges and offer our student athletes what other institutions are able to offer.”