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Athletic Director Pat Hobbs goes live to update Rutgers’ R Big Build

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The AD is nothing if not approachable and willing to talk to the public...and he’s back to do so again

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It’s been just over a year since the $100 million campaign for athletic facilities was announced. And over the last year, there have been a few milestones reached, including a few significant gifts. There was even a ceremonial groundbreaking in November.

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But what’s actually going on now.

Athletic Director Pat Hobbs, Deputy Sarah Baumgartner, and lead architect Scott Schiamberg took to a live Facebook presentation to explain just that. In an email to the R Big Build Captains, there were several points mentioned that Hobbs would cover, and that he would also take questions from viewers:

  • Timeline for the RWJBarnabas Health Athletic Performance Center (APC) and when construction will begin
  • How the architects worked with the coaches to find their specific program needs within the facilities
  • How to become a Big Ten Build Captain
  • What other athletic facilities have Perkins Eastman designed

We followed along and here’s a synopsis of the presentation.

The numbers

Thus far, the R Big Build has raised $71 million, including the $25 million from the state in the form of tax credits. There are some 2000 donors to the campaign.

RAC

The RAC itself is not being ignored. Sarah noted that there are things going on now that will allow “bridge us to the future”. Specifically:

  • Men’s Basketball locker room, named in honor of Abe Suydam, the “godfather of Rutgers basketball”. That change will impact long term for all programs. It includes upgrades in virtually everything from technology to lighting to carpets. The comment was that when people see these changes they’ll say, “Whoa, this is Rutgers?”
  • RAC weight room: complete overhaul/renovation to make it Big Ten ready. Again, the term state of the art was used for a complete renovation. Should open in April.

Construction Timeline

The RWJBarnabas Health Athletic Performance Center will be shovel in the ground this summer. Hobbs said that what started as a small conversation with RWJBarnabas’ Barry Ostrowsky led to a complete change in direction and an expansion of the scope of the project. He also said that Rutgers and RWJBarnabas Health are talking about a lot of other things beyond this construction.

Architect Scott Schiamberg commented that it will be the latest in design and space. The Sports Medicine Center will have facilities that only a few centers in the country have - pro or college. And it was emphasized that everyone in that facility will have the best for their sport.

Architects and Coaches in the Design

Are you doing it the right way? Don’t we all have that question when it comes to Rutgers? The coaches have worked extensively with Perkins Eastman, the designers. Hobbs commented how different coaches can be. For wrestling coach Scott Goodale, it was “don’t make it too nice” because these are wrestlers. For gymnastics’ Lou Levine, he came in with literally a detailed foot by foot spreadsheet of what he wanted.

Architect Schiamberg said that he and his team have catered specifically to Rutgers and its need. This isn’t a cookie cutter design.

About The Designers

Perkins Eastman is an international planning, design, and consulting firm. According to its website, it has completed projects in 46 states and 40 countries. Those projects have ranged from “small buildings and interiors for non-profit organizations to large, new healthcare and educational campuses....”

Hobbs mentioned that they have done work at Notre Dame and Michigan, with Schiamberg noting they are doing work currently with Providence.

Some reference: Perkins Eastman has done a great deal of international work in the sports area. More local, they worked at FDU to expand and modernize its fitness center. And further south, the company designed the High Point University Student Activities Center. The company has also been involved in campus planning.

Viewer Questions

Touching on a few questions that came from viewers:

Will current offices in RAC be there or in the new facility? There will be a coherent design from RAC to new APC. There is a master plan that addresses space as it opens up.

What B1G Championships will we be able to host with new facilities: Without actually answering that, Hobbs noted that on March 18 the Big Ten Gymnastics Championships will be at the RAC.

Will there be shops, retail space, in the new facility: The APC lobby and a Hall of Fame will be on the ground floor and there is a place for a spirit store and a coffee shop. The idea is to animate the area and be a place not just for athletes.

About that lobby: Husband and wife donors Bobbi Brown and Steven Plofker have provided the funding for this area that will include an athletes’ nutrition area. It will be an active space, a part of the Livingston campus.

Timing for Soccer-LAX groundbreaking: Soon was about as specific as they got. There is a 2019 opening for the APC, specfically July 18, 2019. Perkins Eastman has 30 people dedicated to these projects.

Will the RAC Exterior get a facelift: Hobbs: “Gotta do something.” There is a RAC Master Plan for inside and out. He’s not going to create an 18,000 seat arena. But he does want to get students closer to the court, to build a concourse, and in Phase 1 of the exterior plan would be a new facade across the front. It would include a completely new entry plaza, an LED screen (a la the Pernetti plan) like The Yard. The architect, in a greatly understated remark, said the RAC “needs some love”.

Academic spaces: The RAC master plan sees that as people/sports vacate spaces, that can add more into existing used areas. The APC has space as well, supporting student academics.

The Alley: Hobbs said that Athletics continues to work with student leadership and that students have been amazing and they understand the challenges. They have looked at a couple of places, closer to the stadium. They have to work on the alcohol policy, create a safer environment. He mentioned a new video board, although it was not clear where or what he was addressing. Hobbs said they’d like to try to test it around spring game.

Other Points of Discussion

Soccer Lax Facility location appears to be within the Miller Practice Field, unlike the original design that had it in the blue lot. While still early on in the process, Schiamberg said they are providing the latest in facility fit out design in order to help support RU to transform itself.

The master plan wants to have student athletes in close proximity to training and game day action. Hobbs said that student-athletes will be no more than three minutes away from their game facility. And that would allow student-athletes to be more efficient in their day.

Sarah said we’re asking the right questions. “For too long at Rutgers we’ve never asked the right questions.” She said they’ve had heart to heart dialogues, and at times they’ve determined this or that could cost more. The end result/decision was let’s do it right. Scott Schiamberg indicated that everyone is on the same page, something they - as design teams - don’t always see.

More Donors: They have 2,000 now, want 10,000. To that end, Hobbs said, “Everyone has to come off the sideline.” Everyone has to be all in and now. He talked of building RU together. Again in a great understatement, he said Athletics hasn’t been see as a unifying force, often times not. That is changing. “I’m seeing the R again”

The entire video announcement can be viewed here: