Plans are under way to expand the office and practice space available to the men's and women's basketball programs in the facility, which has been the home of the two cage programs and the Ohio State ice hockey team since it opened in 1998.
An additional practice gym will be added to the current structure, which already boasts one practice court, as well as expanded coaches offices, team meeting rooms, teaching space, a video room, training and rehab areas and an area that celebrates the history of the Buckeye basketball programs, similar to the new atrium added to the recently renovated Woody Hayes Athletic Center.
The project has been approved by the OSU board of trustees, an architect has been chosen from four applicants and fund-raising has begun, said Ben Jay, Ohio State's senior associate director of athletics for finance and operations and the man in charge of planning the addition.
Needless to say, the Ohio State basketball coaches are enthused for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is the ability to streamline the practice process for the two teams.
Because there is only gym at the moment – and because the multipurpose facility often sees the Value City Arena floor configured for things other than basketball – the teams must stagger their practice sessions throughout the day. The women currently practice in the late morning and the men take the floor in the afternoon, limiting athletes' abilities to schedule classes at certain times.
"We're building a very comparable practice gym, just like the one that is there now," Jay said. "That will give the teams flexibility in terms of practices. From an academic standpoint, it would give the teams a little more flexibility if they had separates gyms. That way they can schedule practice around the kids' schedules of classes."
In addition, it will lessen the need for the teams to have to practice in multiple areas. Women's basketball head coach Jim Foster said the Buckeyes have had to practice in each of four venues since he arrived on campus: on the main arena floor, in the Schottenstein Center practice gym, in St. John Arena and in a campus recreation center, formerly Larkins Hall and currently the Recreation and Physical Activities center.
The Buckeyes often have to move because the facility, which is operated by the office of student affairs, hosts a number of events, such as the high school wrestling meet, that occupy both the main seating bowl for the occasion itself as well as the practice gym for staging and hospitality.
That point has been driven home recently. Both Value City Arena and St. John Arena were booked – the former for the state high school wrestling tournament and the latter for a campaign rally for presidential candidate Barack Obama – last Wednesday, forcing the women's cagers into the RPAC for practice before their final two games of the season and with a Big Ten championship on the line.
"It helps us when we have events like the wrestling," Foster said. "We practiced at the rec center the other day because Senator Obama was in St. John. If we have two gyms, we give one up for wrestling and we still have the other one. We don't have to give it up. I just think more flexibility helps the players have a better quality of life. That's far and away what's most important about it."
College athletics has been the scene of a building boom over the past two decades, with a number of programs around the country – including OSU – either having built their own sparkling new facilities or renovated old ones. Though the Schott was built around 10 years ago, many programs have since built newer, more advanced buildings, upping the ante in the facility wars and leaving Ohio State on the cusp of falling behind other Division I schools.
"Basically, it's one of those deals where I think today we're in good shape, but as you look across the country at what everybody is doing, we're just staying with what the top programs are doing," OSU men's head coach Thad Matta said.
In fact, Ohio State has taken a look at some of the newer facilities built by other programs to get ideas on things to include in its design.
"If you're going to be an elite program, you have to be mindful of what others have," Jay said. "We took a look at what went into some of those buildings and what are things that we wanted to cherry pick to make sure we addressed our needs, (but) addressing our needs was first and foremost."
As for where the addition will be located, the two most prominent proposed designs show it taking shape to the west of the current practice gym, which sits at the southwest corner of the building, or to the north of the gym above the arena's loading dock. A third concept was a hybrid and would extend the building diagonally to the northwest and over the dock.
The goal will be to have construction begin near the midway point of 2009 and have the new portion of the facility open in either October of November of 2010 with construction beginning near the midway point of 2009.
When all is said and done, Jay said he would like the project to check in between $20 and $22 million, though the board of trustees has approved the plan to upper bound of that range. As is standard at Ohio State when it comes to a major facility upgrade such as this one, much of the money will come from private sources.