The University of Miami football team is walking around with a bit more swagger and pride these days, and not just because the 14th-ranked Hurricanes are 4-0 heading into Saturdays game against Georgia Tech. The coaches and players have the look of new homeowners, proud of their swank, new $14.7 million digs, eager to show it off to recruits and visitors.
Opulence sells in this day of the $68 million Nike sports palace at the University of Oregon and the $40 million Oklahoma State athletic complex. UM never had the shiny facilities to match its postcard scenery, sunny weather and storied football tradition. The Canes still dont have the biggest house on the block. Not even close. But they have a glorious home that should impress even the most-demanding high school stars.
The 34,000-square-foot Schwartz Center for Athletic Excellence opened in phases over the past few months and will be dedicated Friday. It includes the 10,800-square-foot Dwayne The Rock Johnson Locker Room and the Jonathan Vilma Players Lounge that is a cross between a swoopy South Beach hotel lobby and an electronics store oversized leather chairs with the U on every chair back, flat screen TVs in every direction, video games, cellphone charging stations in each locker and a nutrition bar with fruit, power drinks, and other nutritious snacks for athletes on the go.
Miamis modernized training center which services some 400 athletes quadrupled in size to 12,000 square feet and now includes a dental chair for emergency mouth injuries, private physicians examining room, and state-of-the-art rehab center that rivals most NFL facilities.
Hydraulic pools? Check. Three of them. OK, so they dont have waterfalls, like the ones at the University of Alabama, but they do have underwater cameras so trainers can see how injured legs are progressing.
A $70,000 anti-gravity treadmill that allows athletes to run at adjustable body weights to lessen stress on knees? Miami has that, too.
UMs academic and compliance department moved from cramped dark quarters to a spacious bright area with dozens of computer desks, study rooms, counselors offices and an auditorium
The showcase of the building is the airy high-ceilinged DiMare Gallery of Champions a glitzy lobby centered on a collection of UM memorabilia that includes five crystal national championship football trophies, two Heisman trophies, four baseball national championship trophies and lots of ACC championship hardware.
We were looking for the Wow factor, that initial pop when you bring a kid through the door for the first time, and now we have it, said UM athletic director Blake James. Times have changed. Kids are impressionable and make decisions differently from kids of the past. We had to raise the bar because the reality is, in college athletics, if youre standing still everyone else is passing you by. This is a great step for us and gives us a grand entrance, a top-notch academic center, fabulous training room, spacious locker room. It addresses a lot of the challenges we had and allows us to service our athletes at the highest level.
Last year, an ESPN.com writer rated the athletic facilities in the ACC. Miami finished 11th of the 12 teams. Surely, the Hurricanes would finish higher than that now.