In this day and age of state-of-the-art athletic facilities, the University of Arizona has not only caught up with the pack, but supplanted them as king of the hill. Although not entirely finished, Arizona has opened the sparkling Eddie Lynch Pavilion on the north side of the McKale Center. The $30 million dollar facility puts the Wildcats in the 21st century in terms of athletic training.
For years Arizona has competed with lackluster weight and treatment centers and has thrived. With the rest of the Pac-10 building new facilities, the Wildcats built champion after champion with a weight facility that was out of date years ago. Now the Wildcats not only have one of the best, if not the premier weight rooms in the country, but after further expansion they will have a women's locker room that they can be proud of.
"Coaches like Joan Bonvicini and Mike Candrea wouldn't even take recruits into the locker room on recruiting visits," Brad Arnett said.
Just approaching the Pavilion is impressive. Palm trees line the walkway as you approach the glistening glass facade. Before you get to the front door you'll find yourself looking at the tiled walkway. In an effort to raise funds, the university sold engraved tiles that line the entranceway. Looking at them is a who's who of Tucson. Lute Olson has one, as do all of his children. There are a number of UA athletes along with the Old Pueblo's most recognized citizens.
There are really only three things housed inside the building, the weight room, the training room and the unfinished Jim Click hall of champions.
The hardwood from McKale was used
The key to the facility is convenience and versatility. The whole center is designed to be convenient for the athletes and staff. Shared cardio rooms between the weights and the training room frees up space for both staffs. The connectivity between the two areas means that the medical staff can keep an eye on their charges as they go back to weight training and the weight staff can easily check on the progress of injured athletes.
"The main benefit of the design is the relationship between the weight room and us," said head trainer Randy Cohen. "We have a direct connection with the weight room staff as well as the athletes. It is easier to track down player and easier to communicate with the staff."
The weight room is the biggest improvement for the teams. The 24,000 square foot weight room is among the nation's best and will remain state-of-the art for years to come. The old weight room was built in 1972 and over the years had become quite outdated. Teams were embarrassed to show the room to the recruits, especially with schools like Oregon and Washington showcasing new, advanced facilities.
"The (old) weight room here was built in 1972," said Chris Del Conte. "To go to a 20,000+ square foot weight room, it's the best in the country. We've had everyone in the country looking at it."
"It's like night and day," said Arnett. "It blows that old room out of the water. It's still phenomenal."
One of the reasons Arnett came on board was to design the room. Although the structure's design was in place, the equipment to be housed inside was not. Arnett was able to customize all of the equipment to his specifications to best suit the myriad of different athletes that would be using it.
"It is the number-one weight room in the country in terms of functionality and efficiency," Arnett said. "Right now it is the number-one weight room in the country. Others may have equal equipment, but right now no one can touch it in terms of design and lay-out. When it is completely done ‘Fitness Industry' (premier fitness magazine for professionals) has already said they will put it on their cover and do a spread on it."
More room for all the teams
Former Wildcat football standout Donnie Salum donated all of the equipment with the help the vendors he uses in his 14 Fitness Galleries in the Phoenix area.
"Donnie does millions of dollars in business with his vendors," Arnett said. "When I first got down here we sat down and they said ‘what exactly do you want?' They designed every piece of equipment is specifically designed for what we want. There are little tweaks and changes that we did for exactly what we wanted."
All of the equipment is customized for the University and their log and name is emblazoned all over the gear. The trademark Arizona "A" is on the benches, the weights and the workout flooring. In fact the athletes are training on the hardwood from the old McKale floor.
The facility has been designed to accommodate multiple teams and athletes. It's not just a football weight room. The track team won't come in and take up all of the space.
"Six or seven teams can come in and workout and never overlap," Arnett said.
Just in terms of the increase in equipment the rooms is improved. The old room had seven multi-stations, where athletes could do squats, bench presses and other exercises, now they have 17. Considering that 4-6 athletes can be at a station at the same time, that means that as many as 102 athletes can be working out in this area alone.
The racks may take up a lot of space, but they are clearly just the tip of the iceberg. The new weight room has a huge dumbbell area with four complete sets, eight dip stations, four four-way necks, four complete sets of cable crosses and a host of circuit training machines. What does all this mean? A lot of athletes can work out at the same time.
"We can handle a large group of people safely and efficiently," Arnett said. "Everyone gets the same quality of training. No one has to skip anything and come back to it. You can start your workout and go straight through without skipping. Now you can have 30 football players in here and still accommodate several other teams."
But weights aren't all you'll find in here. Athletes can do more than just pump iron. One of the most impressive features is the indoor running track. The track not only lets athletes work on sprints and warm-ups, it also saves valuable time and energy.
The tracks is a key feature for top performance
The track not only has an impact-reducing surface, it also has a state of the art video system that allows trainers to record athletes' movements for analysis. The track is not only designed to save wear and tear, but it is a time saver and performance enhancer as well. Ideally before you do squats you want to run and then get on the rack right away for optimum performance. That wasn't possible before.
"We used to have to go outside and then walk back down to the weight room," Arnett said. "Guys would go sit in the shade for half and hour or run into their girlfriends. It was like 30-35 minutes before you could get everyone into the room. Now everyone is in here. I can see immediate results."
The Wildcats also have a 540 square-foot sandpit that will help prevent leg injuries as well as building strength and explosiveness. Arnett used the injury of Indiana's Tom Coverdale in the NCAA Tournament as one example of how the pit is used.
"The biggest thing with that sand pit is that it allows you to do in place plyos (plyometric exercises intended to build up leg strength and explosives)," Arnett informed us. "It's an unstable surface so it's getting your entire leg to support your knee and ankle. Then you start doing things laterally, side to side, so it gets your ankle used to going in different angles, much further than before. You are going to prevent a lot of injuries. Would it have prevented his (Coverdale's) injury? No, but it would have lessened the severity of it. You can't prevent everything, but you can quicken the recovery time and the severity. That's the key to strength and conditioning."
A central computer station is also a great addition to the weight room. Not only can trainers monitor the entire room from the area, but a wealth of information is at their fingertips. With the computer they can call up individual athlete's training plans, progress reports, individual goals and even burn performance DVD's.
DVD's in a weight room? It is more important than you might think?
"I can video tape a guy running and then show him what he is doing," said Arnett. "What that allows me to do is burn an individual DVD from the moment they get here and then show progress. This is especially good for the pro scouts. Now I can show them that this guy improved here. This guy is faster and more explosive. It also helps us with presentation. We can do power point presentations for recruits and show them how to do an exercise properly and how it will help him/her on the field. It's a teaching tool.
There's even a nutritional center that includes a fully functional kitchen and juice bar.
Part 2 of this story will run on Monday.
[This is a portion of a story that originally ran in the July issue of Cat Tracks Magazine. For more information call (520) 327-0705 or : E-MAIL US ]