Ducks Continue To Raise Facilities Bar
By John Baker
As if the sleek and colorful uniforms, or the unique helmet designs, or even the way Oregon approached practice and game days weren't eye-catching enough, the Ducks football program is raising the bar higher still with the near-completion of a sleek addition to its facilities.
Let's just say, your father's Autzen Stadium it ain't.
Exploding from the football stadium like a black stone and glass set of Legos, the new University of Oregon Football Operations Center gleams in the midday sun like something out of Star Wars. The six-story building, which has Phil Knight's blessing and finances all over it, could be a game-changer for such facilities in the Pac-12.
Check that. It's already changed the game and it's not even done.
It is slated to open sometime in August.
The new center is 130,000 square feet of luxury, intimidation and open arms to coaches, players and recruits. It consists of two buildings, joined together with a double-decker sky bridge. There are coaches' offices, classrooms set aside for individual position groups, amenities up the ying-yang and all of it sitting atop a renovated and state-of-the-art weight center.
Once again, the Ducks put their finances where their football mouths are. Oregon's new facility, along with some touchups to existing facilities, will create a recruiting, practice and game-day atmosphere unlike any in the Pac-12. And that's exactly what the Ducks are striving for. Oregon, once the "little ducklings who could," seem to want it known that they have arrived and are not afraid to flex their new football and financial muscle in the pursuit of top-line recruits and the facilities they crave.
What's funny is that as eye-catching as the facility is, just about everything about the project says "stay out." A basalt wall along MLK Boulevard is three feet thick and grows from nearly seven feet tall on the West end to 12 on the East. Why? Apparently to eliminate anything that resembles a sight line to the practice facility, accelerating a policy that former coach Chip Kelly adamantly supported. Additionally, Oregon has painted the adjacent Moshofsky and Casanova centers black. It's all sleek, shiny and meant to catch the eyes.
How much does it cost to make teenage football players tingle and coaches feel like Texas oil magnates with their own building? Well, no numbers have been officially released, but the sum that keeps popping up is somewhere in the $68 million range.
New head man Mark Helfrich will feel like a tycoon, reclining six stories up with a commanding view of Autzen Stadium in what has been called the "master sky suite."
Fortunately, it's not all about the Oregon football team. Also caught up in this frenzy of athletic building is the PK Player Development Center, an indoor artificial turf practice facility the also features outdoor batting cages. Additionally, the women's soccer and lacrosse programs got a 1,000-seat stadium named after Randy and Sue Pape and paid for by the Knight family.
Now, all Helfrich and company need to do is leverage the new toys into consistent 10- and 11-win teams who win major bowls and challenge for the odd national title. No problem, right?
That's what happens when Nike is backing you.
Oregon's new facility is one reason why the University of Utah has constructed a new football facility. Look for my comparison of Utah's building compared to Oregon's and others within the next couple of weeks.