All I want for Christmas

The original idea called Athletics Director Mal Moore to take the writers on a tour of all the various construction projects currently underway to benefit Alabama athletics. But when severe weather intervened, the plan was limited to just a walking tour of the Football Complex Annex.

Of course everyone in Tuscaloosa has watched the past few months as the annex has taken shape, but Tuesday's tour was the first chance for outsiders to get a view of what was going on behind the brick and glass walls.

Mal Moore reiterated that the new construction is still slated to be finished by late December, in time for January official visits, which are so crucial to football recruiting. "The progress made by the workers has been amazing," Moore said. "The new building will help us this year."

The bottom floor of the new structure will be taken up entirely by a new weight room. When completed, it will take up approximately 20,000 square feet, making it one of the largest of its kind in the nation. (The Tide's existing weight room takes up right at 7,000 square feet.)

The new area will include a short, indoor track for sprint training; floor-to-ceiling windows, looking out on the Thomas-Drew Practice fields; a vaulted ceiling in the Northwest section, allowing coaching offices and the main recruiting room to look down at the athletes; and offices for Ben Pollard and the rest of the Tide strength staff. Moore pointed out that the new facility will serve every Tide athlete in both mens' and womens' sports.

The second floor will include a new office for the head football coach; offices for defensive staffers; a large, luxurious recruiting area; and a players' lounge. At the front Northeast corner stairs from the ground floor lead up to the recruiting area (with skylight overhead), which will include a meeting room to host recruits and their families on unofficial and official visits. Kitchen facilities will allow meals to be served. One wall of the room will look down into the weight room, while down another corridor recruits can stand on the balcony overlooking the practice fields.

"On official visits we'll be able to serve them a nice meal, then just walk out the front door and turn right to attend a basketball game at Coleman," Moore said. "We won't have to load them onto buses."

The head coach's office and several defensive assistants' offices will also have windows looking down to the weight room. On one end of Coach Shula's office a door leads to the balcony. The players' lounge will include the latest in video games, etc.

Artist's rendering of the front of the completed Football Complex.

The addition is already attached to the existing structure, but the area's are sealed off to allow work on the interior to proceed without interfering with old offices. When finished, the annex will be occupied immediately by the weight-training staff, Coach Shula, the recruiting staff (including Randy Ross, the director of football operations) and several assistant coaches. At that point, remaining workers in the Football Complex will move into trailers located in the parking lot, while the interior of the existing structure is completely renovated. From carpet to furnishings, everything in the complex will be upgraded to first-class status. "We've been in that building for 18 years now," Coach Moore pointed out.

For fans familiar with the present building, basically the interior offices on the North edge of the current building will be reconfigured for team and position meeting rooms. The existing coaches' offices (along the Northwest edge of the building overlooking the practice fields) will be used by the offensive staff. The existing media room where press conferences are held (along the Northeast wall) won't change much.

The existing entrance will be brought forward, with the receptionist moved to the ground floor. A stairway will then curve around, leading up to the second floor. The wall separating the current reception area from the second floor will be removed and the hallway behind it widened. At the far end of the building (West edge) the wall will be removed as well, allowing visitors to the building to see down the new Hall of Champions all the way through windows at the far end overlooking the practice fields. A second balcony will be built here, overlooking the Thomas-Drew fields.

"We'll use that hall to feature our All-Americans, our national titles and bowl games," Moore said. "It'll give us one location to explain our history and show off."

On the second floor, the existing team meeting room and AD office area will be reconfigured to house administrative staff. Coach Moore will move from his present office (on the Southeast corner) into the existing head coach's office (on the Southwest corner).

Ground floor renovations will remove the wall between the current locker rooms and training room. The new space will be taken up by a significantly larger and more luxurious football locker room. Extra long-term storage space for the equipment room is being built at the Southeast edge of the Crisp Indoor Facility, basically taking up the spot that used to be occupied by the old power plant.

The existing weight room will be converted to an athletic training area, more than tripling the floor space for Rodney Brown and his staff. State-of-the-art, hydro-therapy pools will be added, to be used in both training and rehab. As with the new weight room, Bama's new training area will serve all university athletes.

"The new training room is desperately needed," Moore said. "It will allow us to get our athletes back on the field quicker."

Behind the Football Complex Annex, located in the area that used to be taken up by the old Tennis Stadium, a new 110-yard practice field will be laid. Present plans call for "Field Turf," the artificial surface covering the indoor facility to be used. As Moore pointed out, on days when it has rained recently, the team would work out on the artificial surface, preventing undue damage to the grass fields. The new field will be marked off with a script "Alabama" in one endzone and will be immediately in front (to the right) of recruits looking out on the practice fields from the annex balcony.

When finished, Bryant Hall will be transformed into a state-of-the-art Academic Support Center.

Renovation of the existing football building is scheduled to progress from January 2004 through mid-July of the same year. Total costs of the new construction and renovations to the old building are projected at $20,931,000.

Central Power Plant

Located between Coleman Coliseum and the Track Stadium, the new power plant was built first. It now provides heating, cooling and power for Coleman, the Indoor Facility and the entire Football Complex.

As part of that construction, a new entryway has been added to the Track Stadium, and a new scoreboard will be added to the West face of the power plant building.

Bryant Hall

Interior renovations have already begun, involving knocking out walls and reconfiguring the floor plan to suit its new role. When finished, the former football-only dormitory will serve as a state-of-the-art Academic Support Center. Work on Bryant Hall began on November 1, 2003 and is scheduled to be completed December 1, 2004. Total costs are projected at $10,331,000.

The facility will house modern computer and learning labs. Separate areas for small-group lectures, study halls and individual tutoring will be included.

Long-term plans call for the construction (by The University) of a new dormitory, which will jointly house new football athletes and Engineering majors. But that aspect of the plan will be added on at a later date after the academic support facilities are finished.

"Bryant Hall is one of the most important projects in this upgrade," Moore said. "It will support every sport and athlete on campus. It will help us keep our athletes eligible and also graduate them. We expect it to make a difference in recruiting."

Tennis and Soccer Stadiums

The two projects officially began November 1, 2003 and are scheduled for a completion date of April 1, 2004. Total cost is estimated at $6,379,000.

A new 12-court Tennis Stadium will be built across the street from the University Recreation Center. The new facility will include elevated seating facing all courts, offices and lockerroom area underneath, and an elevator from the first level up to the seating area.

Site preparation for the new Tennis Stadium, located next to the existing Softball Stadium, is 60 percent complete. The stadium will seat 1,000 fans and will use a Deco-Turf playing surface. Locker rooms and coaches' offices will be included. When finished, Alabama will be able to bid on various NCAA Tennis Tournaments, which will be a boon to the program. Long-term plans have set aside a space adjacent to the Stadium for a new Indoor Tennis Stadium. If it's ever built, then the existing Indoor Tennis area would be added to the existing Indoor Football area.

Ground preparation for the Soccer Pavilion/Locker Rooms, located next to the existing field, has begun. Seating for 1,500 fans will be provided, including locker rooms and coaches' offices.

Other aspects of the athletics upgrades are farther in the future. Renovation of Coleman Coliseum is scheduled from July 2004 till September 2005. Adding an upper deck, luxury boxes and pavilion seating to the North Endzone of Bryant-Denny Stadium is tentatively scheduled from December 2004 until August 2006. And creation of an entryway to the main athletics complex (off of Bryant Drive, across from the Bryant Museum) will be ongoing from July 2004 till August 2006.

Architects have been hired for the Coleman Coliseum upgrade and initial plans have been submitted. Moore said they expect to hire architects for the expansion of Bryant-Denny the first of next year.

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