A planned upgrade for the Georgia Tech weight room won’t win the never-ending facilities race that consumes college football. But it will at least keep the Yellow Jackets in the game.
Said coach Paul Johnson, “It’s something that we need.”
Athletic director Mike Bobinski has begun to raise money to update the main weight room for Tech’s varsity athletes, a 10,000-square foot space beneath the Wardlaw Building, which is behind the south end zone of Bobby Dodd Stadium. It is one of a few infrastructural projects that he has targeted in his assessment of the athletic department since he took office in April.
Bobinski said that the weight room “just needs some updating, some renovation, sort of bringing it up to standard, in a position that it functions as well as it can and it shows as well as it needs to.”
Tech’s weight room serves all of the 17 varsity teams except for the basketball, tennis and volleyball teams, which use the weight room at the Zelnak Basketball Center. The space is functional but dated — parts of the floor are buckling, and carpeting in the adjoining agility room needs replacing. Also, with low ceilings and no natural light, it hardly is eye-catching. It could use new equipment, a change in layout and perhaps some visual pop.
The weight room’s role in catching the attention of recruits plays no small part in renovation plans. As high school prospects make visits and attend camps, amenities such as indoor practice facilities, meeting rooms and player lounges can, for better or worse, make impressions.
“We’ve upgraded almost everything since I came, from meeting rooms to the indoor (practice facility),” Johnson said. “But we’re just trying to catch up.”
N.C. State has a 14,000-square foot weight room solely for football in its football center that overlooks Carter-Finley Stadium, not including a 5,000-square foot quickness and agility room with a 70-yard track.
The Florida State weight room is 14,700 square feet with floor-to-ceiling windows with an additional 5,000 square feet for what the football media guide calls “complex training.”
Tech is limited in that the space can’t be enlarged much, if at all. Aesthetically speaking, the ceilings can’t be raised (the Wardlaw parking deck is above the weight room) and natural lighting isn’t available.
While strength-and-conditioning coach John Sisk has a wish list for equipment and design, the project’s scope will be determined by the financial gifts that Bobinski and the department can secure. Bobinski recently gave a tour of the weight room to the board of the Alexander-Tharpe Fund, the athletic department’s fundraising arm, and gave board members information on weight rooms at Tech’s competitors.
“It was fairly simple to draw the conclusion that we might need to do a few things,” he said.
On a smaller scale, the project continues work begun under former athletic director Dan Radakovich, whose legacy includes McCamish Pavilion, the indoor football practice building, a softball field and the tennis center.
Another priority for Bobinski will be to raise money to update parts of the Edge Center, Tech’s athletic-department headquarters. They include meeting areas for academic support, the training room and various offices.
Bobinski said parts of the center are “just sort of stuck in another time and place. It feels a little bit like 1985 in some of those areas. Without going crazy, we just need to get it more modern, more Georgia Tech-like and have it represent that first-class image that our programs want to present and be about.”
Improvements at Russ Chandler Stadium, including locker rooms, batting cages as well as the entrance, have also been targeted.
He did not have any price tags, but, speaking of the weight room, noted that “nothing is inexpensive these days. It’ll be more than you and I can ever imagine it might be, would be my guess.”
Bobinski, who came to Tech with a reputation for fundraising at Xavier, will begin in earnest his requests for gifts once contractors provide estimates. He was confident he could make progress with the weight room.
“I think our folks, our donors, will respond to it well and understand the need to make sure that we’re really competitive in that area,” he said.