Derek Dooley gives a tour of UT's new football practice facility
The "wow factor" of Tennessee's new $45 million football practice facility remains work in progress. As Vols coach Derek Dooley led a media tour past workers and through construction on Friday, he was extolling a vision of the state-of-the-art technology and design more so than actual reality.
No matter, the prevailing circumstances didn't diminish his view of the surroundings.
"This is going to be the gold standard for the next 15-20 years,'' he said.
The route that Dooley took through the building reflected what he considers to be one its best attributes. Everything from the weight room to training rooms, offices and meeting rooms is neatly arranged in the 145,000 square-foot layout that wraps around the indoor practice field in an L-shaped fashion.
"There's a lot of moving parts when you're talking about 120 big football players going from meetings to training rooms to weight rooms to locker room and then all the equipment,'' Dooley said. "There's a lot of moving parts. So it's got to flow well.
"So there's a logistical component to where things need to be and how wide and how big."
The thought that went into the arrangement was evident when the tour reached the locker room. The equipment room is immediately next door. Dooley said that the original plans had it at the other end of the weight room.
"I don't know how to say it politically correct but you've got no clothes on and you don't have your jock, or whatever it is, and you want to get one,'' Dooley said. "You don't have to go put clothes on and walk outside to get it."
No part of the building seems far from another. All that separates the weight room and locker room from the coaches offices and meeting rooms is a flight of stairs.
"Every building has to have a nice flow and feel to it beyond what you just see,'' Dooley said. "Trying to merge these parts is always tricky. A lot of people had a lot of input and I think the final product is a real showpiece."
Dooley has had considerable input since his hiring in 2010. Before taking the UT job, he was helping to plan a $20 million redesign as Louisiana Tech's athletic director/football coach. His involvement in this project was evident in leading the tour through such showpiece areas as the team meeting room, hydro therapy room and what he described will be a "restaurant" for UT's student-athletes. He also made a point to point out a room adjacent to the locker room that will be used for drying the players' cleats.
"All the people that say players don't get paid," Dooley said. "If you use this facility for four years it's a heckuva paying back."
Friday's tour differed from one Dooley conducted in February regarding one facility feature. There won't be a mixed martial arts cage.
"There's some rule we can't have combat," Dooley said. "You can't get in there and have two guys fighting."
Dooley said that the facility will be occupied in phases. The top floor, which houses coaches' offices and meeting rooms, is top priority. Dooley expects that floor to be occupied before the opening game.
"I suspect by December, everything's going to be done,'' he said.
Along with aiding the players, the "wow factor" eventually is intended to help recruiting, too. Dooley characterized the potential impact by saying, "It generates a level of interest that you wouldn't have if you didn't have it. Maybe there's 10-20 more really great players that you're in the hunt for that you wouldn't be without this find of facility."