PISCATAWAY, NJ – For Scott White - a long-time season ticket holder for football and basketball at Rutgers University - today's long-awaited announcement means everything.
"It's an epic event. A transformative day. A message to the Rutgers community, to the B1G Conference and to the world," said White, as he watched university officials break ground on the RWJBarnabas Health Athletic Performance Center on the Livingston Campus at Rutgers University, opening a new partnership between the university and the hospital.
"Rutgers is building a world-class athletics program prepared to compete at the highest level," said White, a Westfield resident. "So exciting."
The new facility will create a comprehensive sports medicine program to serve the college’s athletes, students and communities statewide, officials said.
According to representatives from both the school and the health organization, RWJBarnabas will become the exclusive health-care provider for Rutgers Athletics, paying $18 million for the distinction.
This action was approved by the Rutgers University Board of Governors early this morning, Rutgers President Robert Barchi noted during the groundbreaking ceremony.
Barchi, Director of Athletics Patrick Hobbs and many athletic coaches joined RWJBarnabas Health President & CEO Barry H. Ostrowsky, as well as state and community officials, to mark construction of the 295,000 square-foot, four story, complex and parking deck located next to the Rutgers Athletic Center.
The facility is expected to provide Rutgers’ 625 NCAA Division I intercollegiate athletes with an array of health care services and would allow staff to pursue advances in the field of sports medicine, officials said.
Barchi declared the day “a milestone day for the Scarlet Knights program.” Rutgers must now get ready for the big haul and we must strive to be very competitive and, at the same time, recruit top prospects in all sports programs,” Barchi said.
In addition, Barchi joked of the need to “cover up the wall on the side of the Rutgers Athletics Center, which is presently a white, concrete facility.”
He praised the efforts of newly-appointed Hobbs and his project of raising $30 million in just a nine-month period.
Barchi then went on to thank the New Jersey legislators for their support in obtaining a $25 million tax credit.
He also thanked RWJBarnabas for the major donation to build “this big facility.”
In closing, Barchi told the crowd that when he was a student at the university, “the Geology lab was in a wooden barrack building … and now look at this big university that I am leading.”
Ostrowsky said that he was “delighted to make this investment.”
“Rutgers and the community gave (us) this project, and we are creating a world-renowned sports facility for everybody,” he said. “It is our mission to bring the best of academic medicine, research, education and providers together to create healthier communities in New Jersey. Rutgers and the community deserve a facility like this.”
It won’t just be the sports programs doing recruiting now.
“We will recruit nationally recognized researchers, specialists and clinical staff to provide the highest quality clinical care, leading-edge research, and top-tier health education and create a nationally recognize academic health center in New Jersey,” said Brian L. Strom, executive vice president of health affairs and chancellor of Rutgers Biomedical and Health Sciences.
State Sen. Raymond Lesniak, D-20, praised the college for “having excellent knowledge to get me involved.”
He also joked to the crowd that “it only took me seven years here to complete my BA degree at Rutgers.”
He further stated that “income from participation in the Big 10 program will be unreal to Rutgers now and in the future.”
“The program participating in the Big 10 will gain our school an estimated $5 million just in the value of the publicity,” he said.
State Sen. Thomas Kean, Jr., R-21, spoke of “the excellence that the facility will bring to Rutgers.”
“There will be great value to future students and alumni,” the senator said.
The four-story facility and parking deck will be located immediately adjacent to the RAC.
The remaining portions of this “R Big Ten Build” will also include a Lacrosse and Soccer Training Complex, and a Football Training Complex/Expansion of the present Hale Center.
The program is targeted to raise $100 million for the new and upgraded facilities.
Construction on the remaining projects is expected to begin in spring 2017.
TapInto New Brunswick Staff Writer Adam Samuel contributed to this report.