Renovation Research Continues for Rutgers

PISCATAWAY, N.J. -- Fellow Big Ten newcomer Maryland unveiled this week a $155 million facility plan, so Scarlet Report sat down with Rutgers athletic director Julie Hermann for the latest on the Scarlet Knights side. Hermann discussed the latest in RAC renovation research and the upcoming in-door baseball and softball facility construction.

Rutgers won’t be outspending anyone as newcomers to the Big Ten. The plan, instead, is smart spending.

Second-year athletic director Julie Hermann and her department are close on a baseball and softball upgrades with basketball work ongoing.

“We have a big catch-up to do, but we’re going to do it in what we really believe is the smartest, most efficient, most impactful use of our dollars,” Hermann said. “We’ve got to make our dollars be smarter than anybody else’s dollars. We’re doing it on a shortened time frame, and we have to seize the opportunity to catch up.”

Rutgers announced this month the start of a “feasibility study” for desired RAC upgrades. The athletic departments returns to research and financial conversations about bringing the historic home of Rutgers basketball to the standards of the Big Ten.

What does that entail?

“[We plan] to visit with some of our best, biggest supporters to open the discussion about what we think is the smartest step for us in terms of facility,” Hermann said on the start of a feasibility study. “That information will come back, and then as a university in conjunction with the president and the board, we’ll finalize what we think is the next smart step.”

A long-time white whale for Rutgers basketball fans, RAC renovations became pet projects for multiple athletic director.

Former athletic director Tim Pernetti commissioned the renowned Michael Graves Architecture and Design for renovations with fundraising underway before his resignation. AD Bob Mulcahy had his own plans before him.

“When I got here, there were renderings on many projects. I see that many, many things have been drawn up,” Hermann said. “I do feel strongly that whatever we draw, we have to do it. We have to get it done. In that sense, I think it’s really important that we’re deliberative. We need to cast a wide net of conversation with people who can impact this opportunity before we go out to the public and say – here’s what we’re going to do.”

The trick this time – get it right and convince donors that renovations are for real.

“My main job right now is to make a really compelling argument for what we build,” Hermann said. “That’s what we’re going to do. That’s a part of the feasibility study.”

In the meantime, breaking ground on an in-door facility for the baseball and softball programs is closer to reality. Hermann’s goal for the project – set between Bainton Field and the RU Softball Complex in Piscataway, N.J. – is to break ground by June 30, 2015 and be ready for the 2015-16 seasons.

“We’ve made a lot of progress on it,” Hermann said. “It’s taken us a long time to nail a concept that we know we can do – doable and we know we can get it done. Now we’re focused on it and 100 percent committed to accomplishing it. … We’ve got $2 million more to go on it and are extremely focused on that.”

Hermann comes from Louisville, which offers state of the art baseball facilities. She wants to bring the same for Rutgers baseball and softball to take the next step in the Big Ten.

“It’s game-changing for them,” Hermann said. “Right now, they’re in the back corner of the RAC. That technically means they share the space with basketball and everybody else who uses the RAC.

“For them to be able to have an indoor, state of the art facility that includes not only batting cages but also a fungo field where they can do infield practice. They technically can’t do that anywhere right now except outdoors.

The practice facility also opens up time at the Hale Center, where multiple teams budget time at the football program’s field house.

“No one gets enough time in the field house, so that’s why this is really important to accomplish,” Hermann said. “We’re parking it right in the heart of where they function every day, which is also key.”

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