Measuring just how the renovated Woody Hayes Athletic Center stacks up to facilities of its kind – both in the NFL and college – can be done by the reaction of a cleaning crew that recently visited the venue. OSU football head coach Jim Tressel said the company has spent the summer cleaning and sanitizing similar facilities across the country, including numerous NFL practice areas, and had a stunning reaction when they stepped inside the WHAC.
“Their jaws just dropped,” said an obviously proud Tressel as he guided a tour for local media Thursday afternoon. “Nobody has anything like this. We’re very proud of it.”
An idea that originated nearly from the moment Tressel stepped on campus and sextupled in price from its original plans is near completion. The coaching staff, which was basically booted out in January of 2006, moved back in almost exactly a year later and will have its $21 million palace fully completed by the beginning of September.
Included are amenities that almost deny description; to simply call them first class would almost be doing them a disservice. No detail appears to have been left undone.
That feeling hits the viewer from the moment they enter the new public atrium that faces east toward Olentangy River Road. In the center of the lobby is the 2002 national title trophy, soon to be joined by 1954 and ’68 versions. In a trophy case in the center of the room are numerous bowl trophies. On the other side of that are the Heisman Trophies won by Buckeye players.
The football offices reach out from there. Along the keycard-protected hallway that exits the atrium are a number of bays that show off the best in OSU history. One is a shrine to Woody Hayes. Another features bisected NFL helmets screwed to the wall along with the list of Buckeyes to play for that team. Another celebrates the rivalry with Michigan, along with a clock that shows just how long until the teams play again.
At the end of the hallway is a stained glass block “O,” similar to the one in the north rotunda of Ohio Stadium. Along the left side of the landing are the photos of every head coach in OSU history; along the right will soon be a chalkboard, recently found in Converse Hall, which has Hayes’ hand-written notes for his book that never was.
“It’s going to be pretty special,” Tressel said.
Obviously, the facility is a playground for anyone with an appreciation for OSU football history. Lining the coaching hallway is a plaque for all Buckeye championship teams. The team has plans to line the hallway housing the team’s video staff with photos of former All-Americans. Painted on walls of the stairway leading to the team’s game room are representations of the different jersey styles the team has worn in its history.
“Ohio State football is story that you love to tell, “Tressel said. “As you walk around this building, you tell the story of so many great players and coaches and the fans and the conference we’re in and all that makes Ohio State – the band, you name it. It’s exciting just seeing that story every day.”
This isn’t to say the facility is all for show. Tressel said the main reason for such a building boom was increasing the amount of teaching space available to the coaching staff. In the past, the team had only one large meeting room and other meetings often had to occur in coaches’ personal offices. No longer is that true. The offense and defense even have their own meeting rooms, which the defense is decorating with the latest NFL jerseys of former Silver Bullets.
“We have every teaching opportunity available,” Tressel said, “which is why we wanted to do it this way.”
In addition to the new meeting spaces, the locker room, weight room, training areas and recreation opportunities have been remodeled and improved. The locker room – whose entry door is topped by a message asking “What have you done to win the national championship?” – features stylish wood lockers spidering out from a common area. From one end, players can exit to the equipment area, training areas and lounge, or they can go out the other way to meeting rooms and coaching areas.
The training room features an underwater treadmill, both hot and cold “plunge” pools and plenty of state of the art rehab areas. Tressel called the weight room twice as big and three times as high as the old area, with weights on the ground floor and cardio equipment above. One clock shows how long until the Michigan game, while smaller clocks around the room tick up to 60 seconds, which is the maximum amount of time under strength coach Eric Lichter that team members can be in the weight room without doing a set.
There is also plenty of space for recreation. A racquetball court and basketball gym – which doubles as a multipurpose space and was populated with dinner tables and chairs during the tour – are available. A total of 39 flat screen televisions are in the building, which Tressel said can be tuned into anything from team practices and opponent film to "Oprah." A game room features foosball tables, billiards, more televisions, a juice bar, what Tressel termed an “X-Box arena” and even a cornhole set.
While providing the Buckeyes with plenty of ways to unwind, Tressel says the lavishness has a practice purpose as well.
“We try to create as much reason to be here as we can,” he said. “There are some bad places you can be.”
As such, the goal is to have the facility open 24 hours a day and seven days a week as soon as security can be worked out.
It all sounds nice – and it is – but Tressel said he does not expect the creature comforts to get into the heads of his players.
“We want them to be grateful for the privilege of being here,” he said. “We had a whole bunch of former players in for a golf outing and they were walking around spinning yarns and talking about what their weight room looked like and said ‘You guys are soft,’ ‘You’re spoiling them,’ and all those things.
“But we want our guys to be grateful. There were a lot of people who didn’t have facilities like this, and there is a lot of responsibility that comes along with this tradition.”