Kentucky’s new $45 million Football Training Center will help the football program move forward on the field and in recruiting, while acknowledging the successes of the program’s past, something that has not always received the appropriate spotlight on campus.
From the moment you enter the lobby, the old era meets the new. On a pedestal in the middle of the lobby, six mannequins are adorned in the Cats’ new uniform combinations. Surrounding them are the bowl trophies from years’ past, including a 1951 National Championship Trophy that was made specifically for the FTC.
Many may laugh off the new trophy (you can see a close up in the photo gallery after the jump), but the reasoning from UK’s Mark Hill makes sense. “We haven’t done a great job of acknowledging the past.” That is no longer the case.
On the lobby wall is a mural of the greatest players to ever wear a Kentucky uniform.
While seeing Kentucky’s past, recruits can use tools to help them see what it will be like to be a Kentucky Wildcat in the future. A Nike kiosk allows them to craft their uniform, from the color combination, right down to the wrist bands and gloves (almost you’re in “Create a Player” mode from a video game).
Beneath the stairs is an area filled with TVs that completely encircles the individual, creating a 360-degree gameday experience.
The ground floor is wear the players become physically enhanced. The new weight room has doubled the team’s capacity to train, all while overlooking the practice fields.
A path from the practice fields to the Nutter Indoor Training Center splits the weight room and the locker room. All college football locker rooms have unique features, but I don’t think any of them have a display like this. Twenty 55-inch televisions are the first thing you see when you walk inside.
Each locker has three separate compartments. The large one on top is for shoulder pads, ventilated to cool them down and keep the stink flowing outbound. The bottom is for their shoes and other essentials while the middle contains built-in USB ports to charge their phones.
They can use a variety of methods to unlock their lockers: a passcode, an ID card or use the retina display sensor. James Bond technology has come to Kentucky.
Connecting them all is the trainers’ room. Players can be taped, or use YMCA-like weight lifting machines to help with rehabilitation. There’s also pools; LOTS of pools.
The largest is a 40-foot recovery pool near the practice fields that acts as a recovery tank, constantly set at 52-degrees. In the trainers’ room lies three pools, one with an underwater treadmill to aid with rehabilitation. Two tubs near the locker room can act as either cold tubs or hot tubs, with TVs to keep the players occupied.
Kentucky football tradition lines the first-floor halls that connect the larger rooms. One wall features all of UK’s All-SEC and All-American performers. Another shows each bowl team. The most unique feature is the NFL wall.
With every NFL team represented by division, TVs in-between scroll through the names of UK players and the different teams they represented. In the middle is a massive touch-screen that allows you to search for any player. By selecting “First Round Draft Picks,” it shows each player picked. Upon choosing a player, you can watch their highlights in the NFL or at Kentucky, and you can see their stats and a photo gallery.
There are also designated areas that appeal directly to prospective players. The two that catch their attention most are the Gatorade bar and the Nike display.
The Nike display has every piece of UK-related gear you could imagine. Recruiting coordinator Dan Berezowitz said recruits were WOWed just by the logo, before it was even filled with gear. The Gatorade bar looks like something you’d see in a commercial.
Before heading upstairs, to the right of the lobby is a new cafeteria. It can sit 80 comfortably, giving room for players to come and go, or it can be a place to host recruits and their families for meals before a game. On the other side of the glass wall is the hallway leading to the indoor facility. Prominently pictured is UK’s Ring of Honor.
If the ground floor is where the players physically enhance their game, upstairs is where they grow mentally. The academic center is still under construction, but no longer will they have to make the long walk to the other side of campus to receive tutoring at Memorial Coliseum.
Around the corner are the coaches offices and meeting rooms. Each position has their own meeting room, designed specifically for them. The coaches offices are finished, but they will not be moving in until next week. The coaches also have their own meeting rooms. An offensive and defensive room looks like a conference center, while the main room connected to Coach Stoops’ office looks like something from a courthouse. Whiteboards and screens are hidden behind wooden planks, while the assistants have a desk area that looks like a place where the jury would sit.
The second floor has a balcony area leading from the coaches’ offices where people can look out onto the practice fields. There’s also a similar area to look over the weight room. Called the “Cardio Deck,” sophisticated treadmills and exercise bikes overlook the area where the heavy lifting happens.
The practice fields are Bermuda grass, large enough to fit two football fields, with the capacity to change direction if needed. On the far-side of the field lies the only part of the facility that will not be player-friendly — the running hill.
Turf will be laid on the pathway to the far left, allowing for them to simply run sprints. That’s nothing compared to the stairs. The middle strip will be used strictly for running, surrounded by larger platforms where players will perform plyometrics, jumping their way up the hill on a turf surface.
There is still some construction left to be done, but it will be ready to roll when training camp begins August 4.
You’ll see many pictures, but they will not do it justice. This facility is a marvel, unlike anything I’ve ever seen. That’s exactly what recruits are saying too.
After seeing it under construction. Berezowitz said their goal is to get the kids to come back for a second time, something that shouldn’t be a problem. If they’ve traveled to other facilities, when they return to UK, nothing comes close. After all, those that helped design this also design NFL facilities.
“These guys didn’t cut any corners,” Berezowitz said. “We’re at the top of technology in this building.”
The Football Training Center is helping the Cats move forward into the next generation of Kentucky football, while honoring the previous generations that wore the blue and white.
For more photos of how tradition is honored, and neat things like the barber shop, click below.
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