Inside the RAC Renovation Plan

Rutgers Athletic Director Tim Pernetti is on a mission to renovate the aging Rutgers Athletic Center, and has the intimate details of what is planned to happen. Pernetti also discusses his three-point plan to raise the funds to renovate the nearly 33-year-old building, and discusses how it will benefit most of the school's athletic teams.

PISCATAWAY – A basketball practice facility with two courts, new offices and locker rooms for the men's and women's basketball programs, a new weight room, an all-sports Hall of Fame and the implementation of premium seating highlight the renovation plans of the Rutgers Athletic Center.

If the full renovation is carried out, the plans also will allow wrestling, women's volleyball and women's gymnastics to compete in the RAC.

With new men's basketball coach Mike Rice in place, Rutgers athletic director Tim Pernetti is refocusing his energy on the project, which benefits a the majority of the Scarlet Knights' sports programs.

"The construction of the basketball practice facility gets the exposure in this project, but the beauty of it is it's positive impact on 19 of our 24 sports,'' Pernetti said in a detailed interview with this spring. "It's the highest facilities priority we have right now given the challenges we face. We're recruiting against other schools and our facilities, quite frankly, are behind.

"We need a better environment for all of our sports that are housed in this building, so they can have facilities, locker rooms, weight rooms and training rooms… better access to one-stop shopping.''

Rutgers has kept the price tag of the proposed renovations quiet, but the expected cost is should run from $30 to $40 million. And even in an unstable economic climate, Pernetti said initial feedback from prospective donors is positive.

Artist rendering of renovated RAC
"Based on the fact that we've gotten substantial commitments already in place, in this climate,'' Pernetti said, "and the fact that on the floor there's room for improvement, I think is a very good sign.''

The RAC hasn't undergone any renovation since it opened in 1977. And while it can produce an electric atmosphere on game days, it is antiquated in many areas.

The renovation plans would provide additional meeting, video and conference rooms, enhanced academic facilities, new locker rooms for many of the Olympic sports, club seating, dining and private reception areas for donors and supporters, and improved fan amenities, including a new scoreboard, sounds system, video replay and new concession stands.

The project would allow 19 of Rutgers' 24 sports to train out of the RAC. It means wrestling and women's volleyball would move from the College Ave. gym and women's gymnastics would move from the Livingston gym.

Artist rendering of renovated RAC
"We've designed this plan to bring everybody back to an enhanced and fully functional facility,'' Pernetti said. "The sports programs over at the Hale Center will stay over at the Hale Center. But, ideally, we want to have as many under one roof as possible.''

Since the project will impact so many sports, the fundraising effort will not fall solely on men's and women's basketball.

"Wrestling has proven to be a lightning rod for our University and this department,'' Pernetti said. "There is a world of wrestling people out there that have taken an interest, that want to help this program compete at a national level behind the leadership of (coach) Scott Goodale and his staff.''

The key element to the project is funding, and Pernetti is targeting three major areas to generate the money needed to get it done:

  • Private funding
    "We're in the quiet phase right now,'' Pernetti said. "We've gotten several commitments already on the project, which is great, and that list is growing.''

  • Premium and club seating
    "In football, club seating and a premium experience generates a new revenue stream that helps us offset the debt to the stadium expansion,'' Pernetti said. "Over here, we don't have that type of experience, so creating it here will generate new revenue that we're not currently realizing.

    "In basketball, a club seating experience, at least from many of the people that sit courtside that I've spoken to, would be having access to an area where you can eat, grab something to drink and have a separate entrance, but the seats would be floor level, courtside, right in the middle of the action.''

  • Naming rights
    "We've been public about our pursuit of naming rights on the football stadium and other facilities,'' Pernetti said. "As we look at it, we're looking at everything.

    "There are naming opportunities right now at the RAC, and there will be for our new practice facility, and all the elements of the renaissance of the building. These opportunities will generate revenue that we're not realizing currently, and can assist us in funding the costs of the project."

There is no public timetable to break ground on the project.

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