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R B1G Build & the Master Plan revisited

With the R B1G Build in place, focus has clarified...and changed ju-u-u-u-ust a bit.

James Snook-USA TODAY Sports

Well, we don't have "cranes in the air", but we may have something better: we have cash in the bank!

Pat Hobbs got most of us uproariously giddy when he announced that Rutgers had raised over $29 million for the R B1G Build campaign.  We are more than half way to the promised land.  In fact, the numbers keep growing.

Since you come here for information, we'll do the math for you.  When Hobbs made the announcement, there were 209 fewer donors than the other day when the "tote board" was updated.  And we now have $358,742 more in the kitty.  That's almost $26,000 a day since the announcement.  Nice work, Pat!

Most of what he talked about was the money and who donated it.  Thank you, Greg and Anna Brown, thank you Steven Plofker and wife Bobbi Brown, and thank you Jeff and Amy Towers.  That triumvirate totaled some $11 million by themselves.  I mean, I could have been there but they just never asked me to join them.

The media that was there was posting fast and furious as Pat Hobbs laid out what was happening.  It really wasn't until a few days later that any of the beat writers were able to really step back and do some assessing.  That's what I was waiting to hear.

We know something is going to get built, and it was great to hear Hobbs say he wanted to do it right.  (Am I still talking about Rutgers, our Rutgers?)  I think of past projects and all I think of is "How can we do it cheap" or "Where can we put this? Oh, there's an empty spot".  Not any more.

Let's look at Keith Sargeant's "takeaways" and dig a little deeper.

1) Don't try to pin Hobbs down on a definitive timeline on the multi-phase athletics plan. As we said, Hobbs wants it done right, and that means taking the time to do it right.

Sarge's article stated:

The blueprints still need to be drawn, engineering work needs to be completed and then the university will need to go out to bid on hiring a construction firm. Then, Hobbs said, it usually takes two years "from the time you go in the ground until the time you open the doors'' on a new facility.

That's about three years.  In speaking to a friend who is in the design/construction field, he felt that seemed to be a very aggressive schedule.  But with money in hand, the number one priority - the multi-sport facility with the basketball practice area - can proceed without much delay.  Other than making sure it gets done right.

2) Rutgers is approximately $45 million shy of its $100 million goal and Hobbs made it clear that his staff won't stop working until they get there.

I happened to informally speak with someone in development just a few days before Hobbs' announcement.  This person indicated that they had been working very hard and that we (you and me) would be very pleased with the numbers (at the time, there was no indication that Hobbs was making an announcement).  They certainly did work hard and they haven't stopped.  $26,000 per day?  Not too shabby.

3) Only time will tell whether the RAC's unique trapezoidal shape will be scrapped altogether, but Hobbs said he hopes to give the 8,000-seat arena a facelift.

Changing the RAC is not part of the first phase of this construction.  But Hobbs knows that something will have to be done to update and jazz up the place.  "....we're going to take that space in front of the RAC and we're going to create a nice plaza. And that plaza will not be just for athletics but it's going to be for the Livingston campus. The rendering will include that even though we'll need to get another gift to complete the plaza. In front of the RAC, we'll consider the use of some LED (video boards), so we can have some outdoor entertainment and messaging and branding going on.''

That sounds like some of the designs created when Tim Pernetti hired the Michael Graves firm to do some renderings back in 2013.  That included a plaza and video boards.

Everything old is new again.

4) Not long after the Board of Governors approved the university Physical Master Plan that included a makeover of Rutgers' athletics facilities, we knew there would be tweaks along the way.

The plan to use the empty space under the south endzone seating was scrapped already (good move).  And the master plan that we have talked and written about ad nauseum is being looked at as a road map, but not as a final detailed product.  We've gone over what we've seen as inconsistencies and odd combinations of facilities, and it looks like Hobbs will have his say in making it right.  "We'll continue to tweak to make sure it's the best plan possible,'' Hobbs said. "You look at the soccer and lacrosse complex that we want to build. Just the placement of that, where that sits, whether you can build a turf practice field to support our lacrosse teams. Whether that then also benefits other teams is something that we'll always keep looking at and thinking about, so that at the end of this, what we want to be able to say is that we did it the right way and we are at least competitive in the top half of the Big Ten.''

Thank you, Pat.  Finally, someone who thinks and knows what to do with those thoughts.

5) During my (Keith Sargeant's) recent tour of Rutgers' College Avenue projects, I was told that university President Robert Barchi took a personal interest in the architectural design of the Residential Honors College and new academic buildings.  Well, Barchi appears to be putting his passion for architecture to work once again. Hobbs said his boss "is going to be very involved'' in the look of the new multi-sport facility.

I'll attest to Barchi's interest in design.  In his first year on the job, I was there when he spoke to alumni saying how he had changed the rather modern design of both the Honors College and the academic building, creating what might be called a modernized version of Georgian design.  And I've got no problem with that kind of change.  We've done too much with chain link fences and plain concrete.  As I wrote once, can we make it look like it's meant to last a while?  The Livingston campus is modern; the first buildings there opened in 1969 and reflect that era's architecture (which wasn't all that great).  Whatever is built now should convey a sense of importance, power, and gravitas.

Like it means something....that it really is important.

What I'd like to see as Pat and Bob keep designing

Hall of Fame: Like other schools have, but better.  Maybe somewhere in the RAC; we need this.  Not just a section of a wall with some names on it.  And not a few trophy cases.  We have people and teams and events that need to be recognized.  And hopefully a lot more to come.  Let's keep that in mind.

Indoor facility for field sports at Yurcak: We have the bubble that everybody uses.  Football, soccer, lacrosse, the band.  We're building a new locker/office/training building for soccer and lacrosse.  Let's make sure those teams - and let's add field hockey - have an indoor facility so that they never have a reason to cancel practice.  Year round.

Baseball lights: I know, way down the list, you say.  Not at every other Big Ten school, though.  Boosters have already done the groundwork to determine what would need to be built and how much it would cost.  So, let's plug in the lights.

Strategic Plan: This doesn't require any designing. It's not a master plan, but a strategy of what to build and when.  Timelines.  Setting up priorities, an order for what to build, when to build it, and of course where.  I realize that we still don't have all the money to do what we want/need to do now, but you might as well prepare.

For now, though, what needs to be done is for us to keep writing checks.  I trust Pat will know how to handle the details.  With our help, of course.