Highlight Reel: Rutgers Breaks Ground on RWJBarnabas Health Athletic Performance Center

PISCATAWAY, N.J. -- Scarlet Report was on hand for a history-making morning outside of the RAC, where Rutgers celebrated the groundbreaking of the RWJBarnabas Health Athletic Performance Center. Take a look at the highlights, including a powerful message from athletic director Pat Hobbs.

Rutgers University Director of Intercollegiate Athletics Patrick Hobbs 

Opening Statement: "One of the great things about athletics is that you have those moments, particularly in a game when you're on the sideline, where you feel that chill when something special is happening. I got that today when I came here and walked out to see the preparation and believe this is happening. If you can't get emotional about a day like this, then you need to find something else to do. So you'll see me smiling all day long because this is real. Dr. Barchi spoke about putting something here on the side of the RAC. This is an announcement that we intend to compete in the Big Ten and we intend to compete at a championship level. So this is a very emotional day and I will not come down from this high for a long time." 

On the cost of the building: "The final cost of the building we don't know yet because materials keep going up in price. That's why I wanted to break ground as quickly as we could. We're working with our architects. The space within the building itself will be about 146,000 square feet and then you will have the parking garage which is an important part of this facility as well. So I don't have the up-to-date numbers on that yet, I just know we need to get it built quickly because I've never witnessed materials go down in price, so I want to get out there. But it will be a very important and significant building in terms of what's required from a budget standpoint.  

"That's why we're not done fundraising. When you get to about the halfway point in fundraising, then you get your shovels in the ground. My message to all of the folks that are out there and are thinking about when the time is to support Rutgers Athletics. Now is the time to support Rutgers Athletics because we're on our way. We're going to build this wonderful building and other facilities. We have to improve facilities. When I was asked what the priority was on my first day, I said 'facilities, facilities and facilities'. That hasn't changed." 

On what the date of completion means: "Urgency is the word. We have to continue to be out there to raise money. Sarah and I will be out there every day, that's our job, she has a great team with Rich Knupp and the rest of the folks. There is an urgency around everything we do here in athletics. We're in, in my view, the best conference in the United States. We're in the toughest division in the best conference in the United States, and obviously you've seen some of the results. We need to change those results. The way we do that is by recruiting great coaches, supporting the coaches you have and provide them with facilities they can be successful with. So I treat every day with a sense of urgency." 

On how both basketball programs benefit from this: "I think all of our programs benefit, but, and you can check this, but we have to be the only Power Five school that doesn't have a dedicated facility for our basketball program. If I'm a coach and I'm recruiting against Rutgers University, I can say they don't have this or that. We're going to take that away from all of those coaches. Now they can say 'No, I was there and they had one heck of a practice facility, a state-of-the-art facility and the best in the Big Ten. So that's what we're going to provide our basketball programs. They have not have that in the past and it will be a game changer for them." 

On how long it took to get the project going: "You couldn't get a better partner than RWJBarnabas Health. I've been on the board of Newark-Beth Israel and you see the work that's done there. So I've had a window to see the great work that's done at RWJBarnabas Health. To marry that brand and that effort to what we're doing at Rutgers Athletics is tremendous. Barry Ostrowsky is one of the great and knowledgeable people in healthcare in the United States, and that's why RWJBarnabas health is positioned the way it is today. That says something about Rutgers. That we're doing this together says something about how they view Rutgers.  

"I spoke about how we view RWJBarnabas Health. So we started this conversation months ago, and it was born out of our desire to provide the best in athletic training to our students. Barry said we should go the next level and think how we can be the best in sports medicine. So the next job is to recruit someone who can be the best Chief Medical Officer for that program. It's not just about for this piece of facility here, but it's about the Hale Center and 625 student-athletes. It's about being around the state of New Jersey and having people come to Rutgers University because their son or daughter is an elite athlete and they want the best sports medicine care. That's why they’re going to come to Rutgers University and be a part of RWJBarnabas Health." 


RWJBarnabas Health President and CEO Barry Ostrowsky 

On the significance of partnering with Rutgers Athletics: I think there's two things. In all of the relationships mentioned, they're New Jersey focused. We are a New Jersey enterprise. We are committed to making New Jersey a better place to live and insuring that we can invest in our communities in New Jersey. Obviously, Rutgers is the biggest and, like I said before, an internationally-renowned educational organization and a scientific organization. So for us, it's about choosing partners and most people I think, in life, distinguish themselves by the partners that you can attract. So we think that by being a partner with Rutgers at every level, we will be perusing our goal to make New Jersey better. In this case, its sports medicine, wellness and insuring that student-athletes have the very best when it comes to their needs. 

"Ultimately, by extension, throughout the state, to take this program and not only treat intercollegiate athletes, but members of the community. To do this, you need to rely on a top sports medicine program. For us, it's just another indication, we hope, of our committed mission to New Jersey." 

On how today feels like personally: "It feels great. I am a Rutgers alum, and I hate to say it because it will make me sound like I'm 100 years old, but when I came to Rutgers, there was nothing up. There was a wooden barracks where I had a Monday morning geography lab, which I probably distinguished more with non-attendance than attendance, but there was nothing. Now, when I come on campus and see what's happening, there's a special feeling. And now to have the organization that I'm so fortunate to lead as a proud partner in development or Rutgers, you're right, there is an emotional attachment, which by the way I think is important. Not everything should be P and L and balance sheet and return on investment. There has to be an emotional investment between partners to seek out the best for those who we serve. 

"So, this emotional excitement that I feel and all the folks in our organization feel, is the ultimate lubricant to get us where we want to go to serve the athletes, our students and the overall population." 

Executive Vice President of Health Affairs and Chancellor of Rutgers Biomedical and Health Sciences Brian Strom 

On the significance to have a healthcare provider be in involved with athletics: "I think it's enormously significant. It's very significant in a number of ways. Firstly, athletes get sick, athletes get injuries and some of those injuries are preventable. The ability to link between healthcare and athletics is an enormous strength that in many ways we hope, with the investment RWJBarnabas is making, will extend throughout the state. For now, our goal is to provide, first and foremost, the best sport's medicine for our student-athletes, but the plan is to have this building have the capability to do much more and to have the availability to provide sports medicine healthcare across the entire state of New Jersey" 

On how the building will work as an educational training tool for the medical school: "A lot of the details remain to be worked out. Obviously the building is just being constructed now, but the hope is for this to be a tremendous site for our students, a tremendous site for our faculty to be able to do research in sports medicine as I alluded to going forward, and an opportunity to develop new approaches for better sports medicine and to prevent injuries going forward. It will certainly be a rotation site for our medical students, for our physical therapy students and for many of our different schools within our medical school.  

"This will be a place that can help train them. I think it's important that in order to train healthcare providers, you need clinical bases and clinical sites. Obviously, here at Robert Wood Johnson, we've been linked to Robert Wood Johnson Medical Center and to Robert Wood Johnson Hospital for many years. We now have the partnership with RWJBarnabas. Clinical sites for training are key, and this will be the premier clinical site for training sports medicine. Now that Rutgers is a Big Ten institution and has Big Ten-level athletics, the plan is to also have Big Ten-level sports medicine as well." 

On how this will help with recruitment of faculty and grad students: "Certainly it will help with recruitment of faculty who are interested in sports medicine because now we will have a facility and the capability to deliver that kind of care. Same thing with students. Students who want to train with sports medicine, will have a magnet to be able to bring here. We also hope it will help with the recruitment of athletes. Both because of their access to this great facility and medical care, accordingly, when people come and tour and look for coming to Rutgers, they will see this capability."

Rutgers Athletics Coaches

Men's Basketball head coach Steve Pikiell

On the addition to Rutgers: “We are in one of the best conferences in the country. We are one of the best public Universities academically. And now we are building a world class athletic performance facility.”

On the recruiting pitch: “I’ve already been using it. We have the renderings. We started the process with renovating our locker room and then this is the next phase of it. I’m just really excited that Pat (Hobbs) and Sarah (Baumgartner) were able to get this done. There is a lot of work and a lot of phone calls and things that go into getting a facility like this. And to be able to partner with great healthcare now that’s just perfect - for athletic performance, for healthcare of your student-athletes. We take care of our student-athletes here at Rutgers and this is just another big symbol.

On knowing this was going to happen when taking the job: “Anytime you can enhance your programs with different things like this. This is a game changer in a lot of ways. In the league we play in, they all have it. It’s another thing that we can check off the box. We’ll have the latest and the newest. I think that is a part of it. Pat and I talked about this, the things that we were going to do for the program to make it better. And he is going about doing all those things. It’s exciting for me.”

On the possibilities of the facility and program: "I have been here for six months and we take care of our athletes. I think that is something that we have done here and this is another example of that. It is going to be athletic performance. It is going to be healthcare. It’s going to benefit everybody. A lot of people did a lot of work. I’m the product of great timing, but it’s really going to help my program. This is a game changer for our program. It goes towards the commitment being made here to provide the best education, healthcare and basketball to the student-athletes that play in my program."

Women's Basketball head coach C. Vivian Stringer

On what it means to announce the new practice facility: “It’s amazing. We knew the importance of a facility like that. To see this come to fruition and shovel the dirt, it makes me want to start building the building myself. It’s a great time for all us in athletics, but also certainly the state. We have to be so proud. It’s a state-of-the-art facility and one that long before an athlete would even consider a scholarship, they want to come and see this facility. It’s a proud moment for all of us.”


On the practice facility compliments the RAC: “The RAC is a showcase. That’s where the final product is produced. In effect, what has to be done on the primary levels is what this new facility is about. To know that our athletes are going to be treated first-class way, in a first-class facility. This is where 90 percent of the work will done. It’s means everything in the world to all of us. I can go out and recruit. My assistants can say we can take care of you in everything you do, not just only playing, but everything that relates to an athlete’s health, every aspect of medicine. What could anyone, what more could a parent want, but to have first-class, world-class facility. We’re bragging about this place. To have a practice facility that is truly ours? We can practice anytime? Every aspect of that athlete is taken care of, that’s extremely impressive to the athletes and the parents as well. I’m excited about it and I can’t thank everyone in the state, Pat (Hobbs), President Barchi, RWJ Barnabas, enough for bringing everything together in a first-class way.”


On the overall impact of the practice facility: “This is major. It just helps in a big way. I know there’s a greater commitment now. We sat in those chairs and we had members of the legislature here and the President. It means everything. It’s hard for people to understand sometimes that young people want to know that everyone within this university thinks the world of them. I wouldn’t say it’s arms race, but I think Pat (Hobbs) said it best when we want to be committed to the overall development of student-athlete at the highest level and allow them to compete at the highest level. They can come here now and say this is first-class. We want to keep people in the state of New Jersey and want to be able to attract world class talent. We can offer now with this the best-of-the-best.  The attention to detail – they care. Pat (Hobbs) and Sarah (Baumgartner) putting it together. I can’t say enough. Our legislature is behind this. Our governor is behind this. This is the State University of New Jersey. This is Rutgers. It should be second to none.  We have an opportunity to already see what’s been done and capitalize on that and make this an even finer facility. I want to encourage every potential athlete – and donor – to come see this. When anyone who has given to this project walks into this facility, they have to sit back with their arms folded and have a level of pride at of ‘look what I built’. You’ve lifted the entire state. This needs to be one of these spots in New Jersey people want to come and see.”

Wrestling head coach Scott Goodale

On the importance of this facility: “It’s certainly a big day. It reminds me of the day we found out we were going to be in the Big Ten. There is so much excitement of the possibilities of what can happen here with this new facility. I don’t think many people understand the whole recruiting outlook and what this does for recruiting and attracting the best kids. Ultimately, in wrestling you don’t want a kid just looking for a facility, but the ability to wrestle in a room where you don’t have to worry about splitting practices and making sure our guys are safe. That is super, super important. It’s a state of the art facility. It is huge for us. We like The Barn. The Barn is our place, but just to be able to get out of there it’ll be good. We’ve out grown it. The type of guy we have brought in they need this facility

On wrestling’s inclusion in the facility: “It is important. It’s big. In my program at least, there hasn’t been any building or groundbreaking stuff for us and our guys. It has always been the same wrestle room and same weight room. Overall, for our Athletic Department it shows an unbelievable commitment by them to get this done and get after it. To show not only recruits, but high school coaches and junior high coaches and all those good people that we are trying to do things bigger and better and do the right things for our student-athletes. This [facility] goes a long way in doing that.

On the recruiting pitch: “It’s a reality thing. We’ve always kind of used this as we are going to have this new facility when recruiting the (Anthony) Ashnault’s of the world, the (Tyson) Dippery’s of the world. It just never came to fruition. Here we are now. Now it is a reality. We put a shovel in the ground. We have to go build this thing. We are going to do it. It shows that we are committed to this program and the Athletic Department is committed to this program. It is an exciting day. We will get some of these pictures to our recruits to show this is where we are at, this is what we are doing to show them and their parents.”

Gymnastics head coach Louis Levine

On gymnastics’ inclusion in the building: “It means so much. You expect basketball to be in a building, but for Gymnastics to be included in that in means so much to our program and it means so much to our kids. It is a chance for us to get more equipment in and some of the things we just can’t fit in the space we have now. For recruiting, it’s a huge thing. It shows the commitment to our Gymnastics program. Even our kids who won’t be here (for the completion) the excitement that it brings knowing this program is going places it is an exciting time.

On being on par with other Big Ten schools: “This will match us up. This facility puts us right there. Everything we need.”

On the improvement to the program: "The biggest advantage for us is that everything is in one place. Our offices, the gym, the training room, the weight room, everything will be in one building. It makes the lives of our student-athletes that much better. It is exciting. Definitely a great day."

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