New conference revenues pave way for new Cyclone athletics facilities
This summer, as the Big 12 Conference announced a lucrative new multimedia rights deal, the ISU athletics department was already moving forward on major facilities projects made possible by revenue from the new-look league – including a football facility that Pollard says, remarkably, has come together in only about two-and-a-half years of visioning.
“From day one, we went to the Regents and talked about a $125 million facility plan,” recalls Pollard, who was hired six years ago. “And the sum of what we have done has ended up being a little different, but it is still under the original umbrella of things that were needed to reinvest in ourselves. I think a lot of the big pieces have been put in place, and probably a lot quicker than anybody, including me, initially imagined would have been possible.”
Pollard says the Cyclone Sports Complex for track and field, soccer, and softball being constructed on south campus; the erection of a new 158-foot-wide video board this summer at Jack Trice Stadium; and the new football facility are all opportunities the department chose to pursue after using last year’s Big 12 shakeup as an opportunity to “pause and reset.”
“We got a second chance,” he says, “and we wanted to make sure we took advantage of that second chance. The league is going to be even more challenging for us with 10 [members], but it also comes with a significant revenue windfall that allowed us to think strategically about what we needed to do. It really came back to ‘what impacts the student-athlete?’”
The Cyclone Sports Complex provides new opportunities for eight of ISU’s 18 athletics programs, Pollard says, and the Cyclone basketball programs have benefitted from their new facility. Restroom, concession, and accessibility enhancements at Jack Trice Stadium have benefitted the ISU football fan, but he says the latest project will benefit the football student-athlete.
The construction of a 60,000-square-foot addition to the Bergstrom Indoor Training Facility, begun late this summer and tentatively scheduled to be completed over the next year, will give Iowa State a 160,000-square-foot football complex – something Pollard says will put the Cyclones in a unique class nationally. Not only does the new $20.6 million football building offer practical advantages to current student-athletes and display commitment to prospective student-athletes, Pollard says, but it also has a trickle-down effect on other Cyclone programs that will be able to occupy the vacated spaces in the Jacobson Building and Olsen Building.
Plans are still very tentative, but Pollard says the soccer and softball programs will likely move over from the Lied Recreation Athletic Center. He says the department is evaluating the possibility of moving wrestling facilities as well, creating a new wrestling room in the space formerly occupied by the football weight room.
Pollard says one of the biggest advantages of the new facility for the football program is increased proximity and accessibility, putting player and coach locker rooms, a larger team auditorium, position team meeting rooms, coaches’ offices, a reception area, strength and conditioning facilities, a sports medicine center, video operations, and an equipment room under one roof.
Pollard says his department’s latest construction projects are a tribute to outgoing ISU President Gregory Geoffroy, who displayed tremendous commitment and foresight in green-lighting the new projects early on.
“[President Geoffroy] and I talked a year ago when we knew there was going
to be a television deal, but didn’t know what it would end up being, that we wanted to be on the front end of that investment and not wait until everything happened and kind of waste a couple of years in the process,” Pollard says. “We have shovels in the ground, and that really starts with Dr. Geoffroy.”
The facility is also a reflection of head football coach Paul Rhoads, Pollard says.
“He is all about the student-athlete, so it was a big thing for Coach Rhoads that the program be developed not with bells and whistles but with practical applications for what is in the best interest of the student-athlete,” Pollard says. “So you won’t see some things that you might see in some other programs that go out of their way to say, ‘Look at what we did.’ He’s going to be more about, ‘Look at what we’re able to do.’”
Sidebar: Wide Angle
The eyes of Ames – and an ISU facilities webcam – were on Jack Trice Stadium in the wee hours of June 29 as the much-buzzed-about new 357,000-pound video-board was hoisted into place over the Jacobson Building in the north endzone, giving the stadium an eye-popping new look. The 158-foot-wide, 101-foot-high structure, which includes a 79.5-foot-wide high definition Daktronics video screen, is making its debut this football season.
“It’s clearly meant a lot to our fans,” ISU athletics director Jamie Pollard said of the project. “It was the number one topic of discussion anywhere I went this summer.”
But Pollard understands the sense of ownership fans feel about the stadium. And he, too, is excited to see the changes the new high-definition video board and sound system will bring to the fan experience.
He says the impetus for the project was threefold: a pressing need to upgrade the stadium’s sound system, future plans that call for the south endzone to be bowled in – thus requiring the existing board to be moved, and the new revenue opportunities from the Big 12 multimedia rights deal.
“When the television deal came we said, ‘Let’’s just bite it off,’” Pollard said.
“It will add to the gameday environment. And it will essentially change the stadium – in some ways it bowls in the north endzone.”
Dean McCormick (’81 construction engr), director of design and construction services for ISU’s department of facilities planning and management, said the video board project was one of the most interesting he’s ever worked on.
“The challenge of erecting on the ground and lifting in one piece what is essentially a small building safely into place above an existing building was a daunting one,” he said. “It was exciting to work with the project team to meet those challenges and, for most of us, the size and complexity of the lift was a once-in-a-career event.”