Battling for Big 10 Success, Rutgers Approves $115 Million Practice Facility

A rendering of the $115 million athletics practice facility approved yesterday by Rutgers. Credits: Ben Solomon/Rutgers University

NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ — A sprawling new athletics practice facility is set to take root on Rutgers University’s Livingston Campus come fall 2019.

The Board of Governors approved the construction of the $115 million project yesterday, April 6, during its meeting in Winants Hall. If all goes as planned, it will yield a four-story, 125,000-square-foot practice facility for basketball, wrestling and gymnastics, along with a 555-space parking deck, according to university documents.

“We are incredibly excited about this project,” Patt Hobbs, Rutgers’ athletics director, said in a statement. “The RWJBarnabas Health Athletic Performance Center will make a tremendous difference in the lives of our students and the competitiveness of our programs.”

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The hulking structure got its name after the board approved an agreement with RWJ Barnabas Health last fall. In exchange for naming rights, the medical group is poised to contribute a “multimillion-dollar” gift, according to the university.

The remainder of tab is expected to be covered by as much as $25 million in tax credits from the state Economic Development Authority, funding from the Big Ten Build campaign—which has thus far raised $70 million—and bonding, according to the school.

Indeed, Rutgers plans to go to bond to raise the $26 million required for the 28,000-square-foot, six-level parking structure. The university expects to pay down that debt with fees gathered for event parking and the like.

Rutgers officials envision the “state-of-the-art” practice facility as the new face of the Athletics Department, according to the project summary.

“The building will vastly strengthen Rutgers Athletics’ identity and create a significant new destination on the Livingston Campus and for student athletes and the Rutgers community at large,” the document reads.

Anchoring the building, on its ground floor, will be a Rutgers Athletics hall of fame, a spirit shop and a visible public entrance and lobby.

Plans also call for strength and conditioning facilities and space for the gymnastics program on the first floor. The gymnastics space will include a full gym, locker rooms, a training area and coaches’ offices.

The second floor is set to house a dining area for student-athletes. Wrestling facilities, including three mats, locker rooms, a training area and office space, will also occupy this level.

The third and fourth floors will be dedicated to women’s and men’s basketball. The third floor is poised to accommodate two extra-large courts, locker rooms, training space, lounges, an area to view film and more. Offices and team space will comprise the fourth floor.

Any of the university’s 600 student-athletes may use the space, according to Rutgers. But it will primarily serve 15 women’s basketball players, 15 men’s basketball players, 16 gymnasts and 28 wrestlers, according to the project summary.

“When completed, the RWJBarnabas Health Athletic Performance Center will serve our Big Ten athletes, benefit the wider New Jersey community through sports medicine research and provide parking in what will be a vibrant corner of the Livingston Campus,” said Antonio Calcado, Rutgers’ executive vice president for strategic planning and operations.

This project is but the latest in an ambitious drive by the athletics department to boost Rutgers’ standing in the prestigious Big Ten Conference, which it officially joined in 2014.

That drive largely calls for construction to replace “outdated and undersized” athletics facilities, according to university documents.

The RWJBarnabas practice center is one of three projects proposed for the first phase of the campaign. In February, Rutgers’ board of governors approved $8.5 million in renovations to football practice fields. Athletics Department officials also hope to build a lacrosse and soccer training complex, according to the school.

“These pivotal projects will result in additional square feet of critical training space,” the project summary reads, “and will have a dramatic and wide-ranging impact on all 24 Rutgers athletic programs.”

Rutgers plans for the multi-sport practice facility approved this week to become part of the Athletics Plaza on Livingston.

It’ll sit near the Louis Brown Athletic Center, and both structures would be connected by a covered pedestrian bridge. The business school stands across the street from the project site.

Construction on the RWJBarnabas practice center is expected to begin this spring.

The opinions expressed herein are the writer's alone, and do not reflect the opinions of or anyone who works for is not responsible for the accuracy of any of the information supplied by the writer.

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