Auburn, Ala.--There is plenty of construction taking place at Auburn University this summer with several of the current projects being upgrades to athletic facilities.
Randy Byars, Auburn's Director of Athletic Facility Planning, has overseen multiple major projects in recent years. One of the biggest was the new indoor football practice facility and expanded weight room project, which was recently completed.
That expansion in football facilities puts Auburn among the very best in the country for that sport. The full-size indoor field and new weight training area has been impressing football prospects who visit the Auburn campus and is also receiving good reviews from the current players.
Now that it's fully functional and has already paid dividends for Coach Gene Chizik's program, Byars said things couldn't be any better in that area. "That turned out wonderful," he said of the project. "From a functionality to exegetics to a recruiting tool, everything turned out wonderful there. It's been a great facility."
It's not just the indoor facility and weight room that has been renovated though as the entire athletic complex is in the process of being systematically renovated to make it more modern and functional. The coaches offices, locker room areas, team meeting rooms and other areas have undergone changes in the last two years, and Byars pointed out more changes are still in the works.
"We built this building in 1989, I believe it is," he said of the football complex. "We really haven't done much to it since then. It had an unusual appearance to it, sort of dark a little bit, and really needed spiffing up, so we've been going through it in different phases--coaches' office areas, administrative areas, player development areas--and finally got down to working on the locker room.
"The locker room had been upgraded, but in the areas around it you went from a nice locker room to a pretty ugly lobby area," he said. "The player lounge and player rest areas, we've been working on stepping through it all."
A look at some of the upgrades done outside the locker room at the athletic complex
In addition to the ongoing work inside the athletic complex, there are plenty of other projects taking place. Byars said that with all the work going on and with what is planned, it will continue to be a busy time for building as Auburn tries to stay current in the athletic department arms race.
"The university just bid an upgrade on support facilities for the outdoor pool," Byars said. "The Wellness Center and kinesiology projects sort of rearranged things around the outdoor pool so there are going to have be new structures for the pool equipment buildings and storages and all that. We've been working with them on that. It's not a large project, but it's something we had to do.
"We have the wellness kitchen that should be going out for bid in late August," he added. "We're going to do renovations to the Watson Fieldhouse (old football indoor facility). We are working on getting the Olympic-sport strength and conditioning out of Beard-Eaves (Memorial Coliseum) and over to Watson Fieldhouse. Watson will become the weight room basically. That'll be late August.
"We're making an addition to the athletic complex on sort of the service side where the equipment room is and laundry room is. We're going to enlarge that to provide additional equipment and laundry space because we're getting that out of Beard-Eaves. A lot of things have been driven by getting out of Beard-Eaves."
There is also movement on the baseball front as Plainsman Park is heading for another upgrade. Still one of the most beautiful college ballparks in the country, the fans may not notice the changes once they are done in and around the baseball stadium, but Byars said the players and coaches definitely will.
"We have a project over at Plainsman Park where we're going to renovate the clubhouse area," Byars said. "It's amazing how Plainsman Park isn't that old, but in comparison to modern-day facilities it's a little bit behind the times and amenities for players so we're going to expand some areas, relocate some areas and give the players a little more room--a little more breathing room underneath. We're going to get the training room a little bigger and equipment room a little bigger. A little bit of everything."
Plainsman Park will be getting major upgrades in the coming years
With so much building going on around athletic facilities, a major question that remains is what will be done with Beard-Eaves Memorial Coliseum that was replaced by the Auburn Arena? Home to much more than just the men's and women's basketball teams since it was completed at the end of the 1960s, Byars said what will happen at the coliseum site is being studied with more questions than answers at this time.
"We still have some decisions to make to get a little bit of things out of there, but we're working on it," Byars said. "Informally, 2014 has been a target date to get everything out. The trustees have not said what to do with Beard-Eaves after everyone is out. 2014 is certainly the target right now."