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5 Tips for Designing Impactful College Football Training Facilities

More college football programs are investing in modernized training facilities that support student-athletes in their training, performance and recovery.

These facilities blend high-performance training areas with amenities that help student-athletes excel on and off the field. Nate Appleman, AIA, LEED AP, and Trevor Bechtold, directors of HOK’s Sports + Recreation + Entertainment practice, describe five goals for the design of new or updated training facilities.

1. Plan space adjacencies strategically.

Consider the daily journeys of the players and coaches and design space adjacencies that make their day-to-day easier. It’s helpful, for example, to place a weight room or practice field close to locker rooms. Or to help maintain good health and nutrition by locating food and nutrition areas next to the locker room and adjacent to their common path of travel through the building.

Schools with large sites can construct an indoor practice facility and two outdoor fields attached to the training center. Including parking spaces for cars, Gator carts and golf carts cuts travel times for coaches, student-athletes and athletic training staff. Putting the training facility near student-athlete housing enhances efficiencies by establishing a central hub where players live, practice, dine and relax.

At the University of Georgia’s Butts-Mehre Heritage Hall in Athens, HOK’s design expands and modernizes the football training facility. The layout considers the path recruits and their families will take when touring the building. This route offers clear views of the lobby’s sleek black and red trophy display. There are also 360-degree views of player development spaces, including modern dining space, demonstration kitchen, player lounge and weight room. This layout showcases the adjacencies and support network for student-athletes.

2. Rightsize the building.

A football training facility for an NCAA Division I football program should comfortably fit 120-125 student-athletes, plus coaches and staff, with flexibility for future expansion. Staff growth and program growth are two of the biggest guiding factors in setting the design direction.

Open office workspaces and multipurpose rooms can ensure that training facilities have flexible space than can be adapted to changing needs and remain flexible as growth occurs.

At Southern Methodist University in Dallas, HOK is designing the Garry Weber Training Complex in the south end zone of Gerald R. Ford Stadium. On game days, a dining hall for student-athletes can generate additional revenue for the university by converting to premium space for fans. Day-to-day, it supports all of dining and nutrition needs of student-athletes.

3. Invest in cutting-edge training and recovery.

High-performance training spaces help players and coaches stay at the top of their game. The Gators train in a two-story weight room with a second-story cardio mezzanine, along with practice fields and a sports medicine clinic, at the University of Florida’s new Heavener Football Training Center in Gainesville. A cryotherapy room, sauna and steam rooms, dry float tanks, hydrotherapy plunge pools and rehabilitation space are all available for top-tier recovery.

Images below courtesy of the University of Florida.

Recovery spaces also support the mental health of players, coaches and staff. New training facilities are starting to incorporate areas like solar spas (private pods to relax, meditate and soak in the sun) and “zen dens” (quiet, dark zones for deep reflection). Locker rooms at the Georgia Bulldog’s Butts-Mehre Heritage Hall are punctuated with sleek graphics and branding and now include recliner seating and lounge space where players can relax.

Sports programs can benefit from connecting with local healthcare design professionals and health systems. At Clemson University, HOK’s Healthcare group designed passive and active recovery spaces and a sports science space for injury prevention inside the 100 Yards of Wellness Center, a recent expansion of the Allen N. Reeves Football Operations Complex.

To improve access to healthcare professionals and services, Oxford, Ohio-based Miami University partners with Mercy Health-Cincinnati, which operates an orthopedics and sports medicine clinic within the RedHawks football team’s Athletic Performance Center.

4. Celebrate the past and build excitement for the future.

Schools can use training facilities to help celebrate their program’s past while preparing players for the future. A Nike gear room at Clemson University’s Allen N. Reeves Football Operations Complex celebrates the Tigers’ legacy of success and displays an impressive collection of the team’s past uniforms and bowl rings.

Numbers depicting the Georgia Bulldogs’ championship years glow against black walls in the all-team auditorium of Butts-Mehre Heritage Hall. These subtle design cues remind players of the program’s successes while communicating its prominence to recruits.

Similarly, as players and recruits enter the University of South Florida’s new Indoor Performance Facility in Tampa, they pass a giant video board honoring the USF Bulls’ legacy and cases displaying the team’s trophies.

Branded, immersive experiences like these are integral to teambuilding and recruiting. For example, at Auburn University’s new Football Performance Center in Auburn, Alabama, a circular huddle lounge includes pool tables and a recliner for each player. Glass slivers dangling above the “War Eagle nest” in the center of the room pay homage to the tradition of rolling Toomer’s Corner after an Auburn victory.

Video suites for watching game film, conference rooms and player support offices help the teams bond and prepare. Yard line markings on the carpet of the indoor turf classroom allow Auburn to walk through plays. There are also flexible meeting rooms for academics and life coaching to help student-athletes prepare for life after college football.

5. Provide elite amenities.

Amenity-rich environments elevate the experience for players while giving a team more opportunities to promote its culture.

Clemson’s Allen N. Reeves Football Operations Complex has 1.5 acres of outdoor leisure space, a movie theater, a game lounge, a bowling alley, miniature golf and basketball, volleyball and bocce ball courts. Compelling graphics highlighting the Tiger brand fill the spaces. Families of players and recruits can enjoy the amenities on game days and be a part of the Tiger Family for some hospitality.

The amenities at the Florida Gators’ Heavener Football Training Center celebrate the climate and culture. An outdoor pool, palm trees, lounge seating and outdoor games sit beside the building. They are offered to all student-athletes.

Other popular new amenities include virtual reality rooms for game simulation, barber shops and flexible spaces where student-athletes can engage in activities that allow them to profit off of their name, image and likeness (NIL). These NIL support facilities can include interview rooms, podcast studios for players to create their own content and offices for staff who facilitate NIL opportunities.

Let's Connect

Contact Trevor Bechtold or Nate Appleman, directors of HOK’s Sports + Recreation + Entertainment practice, with questions about designing college football training facilities.

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