Pat Hobbs took time out of his busy schedule last weekend to travel to Baltimore to support the Rutgers men's lacrosse team for its Big Ten Tournament championship game against Maryland.
For the Rutgers Athletics Director, it also served as a reconnaissance mission.
"One of the things that I did when I was down there, I went through their (lacrosse training) facility, which is four years old,'' Hobbs said. "Their deputy AD gave me a tour of that. Again, I asked the question, 'So if you could do this differently, what would you do?' We are taking all of that intelligence and we are bringing it back to this facility. I learned a few things.''
On a day when Hobbs announced that Rutgers athletics had raised close to $55 million since mid-January in its $100 million fundraising campaign to build new facilities, we learned a few things, too.
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Here are five takeaways from the Hobbs press conference:
1) Don't try to pin Hobbs down on a definitive timeline on the multi-phase athletics plan. "The timeline sort of doesn't matter for me,'' he said. "The projects matter. Getting them done matters. I don't have a timetable other than to continue to work as hard as we've all worked and to trust and be confident that we'll get it all done.''
There's been talk about Rutgers breaking ground on its new multi-sport training facility — which most notably will accommodate the basketball teams — as early as this summer. But that sounds overly ambitious at this point.Rutgers development: Honors College A look at the Rutgers Honors College, a new residential hall which opened in August 2015. Rising above the Raritan River on the College Avenue Campus, the Honors College combines residences for first-year students with the advising and administrative offices of the College. (Video by Keith Sargeant | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com)
"We want this to be really exciting space so we are taking time with this,'' Hobbs said. "I feel the architect is comfortable with (the information) we have. Our latest tweak was we increased the strength and conditioning area 30 percent because our new strength and conditioning coach in basketball, Dave VanDyke, made the case that if we are going to do this the right way that's what we need to do.''
The blueprints still need to be drawn, engineering work needs to be completed and then the university will need to go out to bid on hiring a construction firm. Then, Hobbs said, it usually takes two years "from the time you go in the ground until the time you open the doors'' on a new facility.
So it sounds like the 2019-20 season would be the most realistic timeline for Rutgers basketball, wrestling, gymnastics and volleyball players to begin utilizing the new training facility.
Again, that's not a definitive timeline but Hobbs did express confidence that current high school prospects "will practice in that facility.''
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2) Rutgers is approximately $45 million shy of its $100 million goal and Hobbs made it clear that his staff won't stop working until they get there.
But the marquee project — the training facility to accommodate basketball — is no longer dependent on fundraising.
"In terms of construction now we are just going to move forward with construction time lines,'' Hobbs said. "So as long as long as it takes the architects to finish the designs piece of this, and get the engineering work — that's not going to now wait for where are we on fundraising — that just progresses with the usual time lines of construction. The multi-sport facility is moving and going forward.''Rutgers development: Academic Building A look the new Rutgers Academic Building, a classically designed, 200,000 square foot academic facility located in the heart of Rutgers’ main College Avenue campus, which opened in August 2016. (Video by Keith Sargeant | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com)
3) Only time will tell whether the RAC's unique trapezoidal shape will be scrapped altogether, but Hobbs said he hopes to give the 8,000-seat arena a facelift.
"We have to do something, obviously, with the RAC,'' Hobbs said. "In phase two, I'd like to look at doing something to change the facade Also in phase two, we're going to take that space in front of the RAC and we're going to create a nice plaza. And that plaza will not be just for athletics but it's going to be for the Livingston campus. The rendering will include that even though we'll need to get another gift to complete the plaza. In front of the RAC, we'll consider the use of some LED (video boards), so we can have some outdoor entertainment and messaging and branding going on.''
Hobbs in a sprint to improve facilities
4) Not long after the Board of Governors approved the university Physical Master Plan that included a makeover of Rutgers' athletics facilities, we knew there would be tweaks along the way.
In fact, it didn't take long for Rutgers athletics officials to stiff-arm a key component — a build-out of the bowels of the south-end of High Point Solutions Stadium that would've included the offices and locker rooms for the soccer and lacrosse programs — in favor for a new facility for those programs adjacent to Yurcak Field.
"We'll continue to tweak to make sure it's the best plan possible,'' Hobbs said. "You look at the soccer and lacrosse complex that we want to build. Just the placement of that, where that sits, whether you can build a turf practice field to support our lacrosse teams. Whether that then also benefits other teams is something that we'll always keep looking at and thinking about, so that at the end of this, what we want to be able to say is that we did it the right way and we are at least competitive in the top half of the Big Ten.''Rutgers development: College Avenue Apartments A look at the 14-story, u-shaped Rutgers apartment building at the corner of College Avenue and Hamilton Street, which is set to open in September 2016. (Video by Keith Sargeant | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com)
5) During my recent tour of Rutgers' College Avenue projects, I was told that university President Robert Barchi took a personal interest in the architectural design of the Residential Honors College and new academic buildings.
Well, Barchi appears to be putting his passion for architecture to work once again. Hobbs said his boss "is going to be very involved'' in the look of the new multi-sport facility.
That makes sense considering its' placement on the Livingston Campus, which has undergone a complete makeover in recent years with the building of a business school, restaurants, shops and dorms.
"We have some really interesting buildings built over the campus,'' Hobbs said, "and we want to this to be an iconic structure.''
Keith Sargeant may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @KSargeantNJ. Find NJ.com Rutgers Football on Facebook.
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