Athletic facility set to open

Last season it shed the old logo and jerseys for sharp new threads.

In 2005 it will make the move from Conference USA to the Big East.

Starting this week, the USF football team is moving out of the trailer park and into its new state-of-the-art intercollegiate athletic facility.

Coach Jim Leavitt said he can officially move in on Tuesday and that moving operations to the new building will help his team on many fronts.

“We want to get in early because there are so many adjustments,” Leavitt said. “We’ve been in the trailers for eight years and we have become accustomed to operating out of them. If we don’t get in now we can lose focus. The sooner the better to get our operation running.”

“When you live here and you have trailers, I think players and families wonder,” Leavitt said.

Moving out of the trailers will be a big change for Leavitt, who has basically lived in them since he was named head coach in 1996. They have been Leavitt’s science lab; from them, and in only seven seasons, he has built a competitive Division 1-A football team.

Attracting high school studs that Leavitt can transform into future Big East stars just got easier for the Bulls, who will begin working out in a 10,000-square-foot strength and conditioning center inside the athletic center.

“When you have something tangible, something you can walk through, I think it helps show the commitment we’ve made.”

No longer will Leavitt have to weather the constant thumping of batting practice blasts against the portable trailers that sit just over the left field wall of Red McEwen Field. His new home is the huge $15 million facility located between the Sun Dome and the intramural fields.

“What I like about it is that so many sports will use this facility,” he said.

In addition to football, the building will be home to baseball, softball, men’s and women’s soccer, men’s and women’s tennis and men’s and women’s track and field/cross country — who all move out of the Physical Education Building.

The 104,00-square-foot structure, which began construction in 2003, will also house locker rooms, a Hall of Fame, a Big East conference room, the athletics administration offices, an academic enrichment center and Olympic sports coaching offices.

Men’s tennis coach Don Barr said his official move-in date is Thursday, but he will be able to get a head start tomorrow.

Barr is happy to get in the new building for many reasons. And with the number of injuries his team had this season, Barr seemed high on the amenities injured players will have to recover.

“It’s going to be a much better situation,” Barr said. “For one, injuries will be getting fixed a lot quicker.”

He also mentioned three world pools, one of which has a treadmill at the bottom. “It’s going to be tremendous to increase the speed of recovery time for injuries. To have a state-of-the-art building like that — it’s going to definitely help my recruiting with American kids.”

“All that is just going to be a tremendous marketing tool for recruiting,” he said. “When you talk about putting (millions of dollars) out toward athletics shows that they definitely want to promote the athletics at this school and get more national recognition and the only way they are going to be able to do that is to have a building like that.”

Women’s tennis coach Gigi Fernandez added, “It’s going to help recruiting and it’s going to help image. It’s going to help everything. It’s going to help the women on the team right now as far as making their life easier with everything being together in one place and the academic support is going to be better. It’s just going to be easier with everything in one place. It’s going to be night and day.”

Fernandez is very excited about the strength and conditioning center that will house brand new equipment.

“You should have seen where we were lifting,” Fernandez said. “It’s like a little room — like eight-by-ten — with 25-year-old equipment. Now we have this huge facility with state-of-the-art equipment with locker rooms for the girls and it’s not far from the tennis courts. It’s pretty much walking distance from the tennis courts, so it’s going to be great.”