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Sports center a testament to ODU's ambitions

Courtesy: ODU Athletics
         
Release: May 28, 2008
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May 28, 2008

JUDGING FROM THE level of alumni anticipation and the robust ticket sales, football appears to be a good fit for Old Dominion.

What appears to be a very snug fit, however, is the

$17 million Powhatan Sports Center, the epicenter of Monarch football, which Bobby Wilder's program will share with women's lacrosse and field hockey when it is completed, probably late this summer.

The center uses virtually every available square inch of ODU's back 40, as it were, with two football practice fields running up against a fence separating them from Norfolk Southern rail cars.

In order to accommodate the limited real estate, one of the gridirons will be cut off at an angle, reducing it to about 60 yards. It's a small inconvenience for Wilder and his team, seeing as how space should not be a problem inside the 58,000-square-foot glass and brick monument to athletic ambition.

"It's one of the top five

Division I-AA facilities in the country," Wilder said during a media hard-hat tour Tuesday of a building that comes with all sorts of bells and whistles.

In addition to a meeting room that seats 100 and the video coordinator's room, which will house the latest in digital equipment, the facility features individual offices on the second floor for each of ODU's 11 football coaches. The first floor contains a 6,000-square-foot strength and conditioning room, located behind the two-story terrazzo lobby.

On Wilder's first day on the job, he met with athletic director Jim Jarrett, university projects manager Dave Robichaud and director of design and construction Dale Feltes to look at blueprints.

"They said, 'These are the rough plans; tell us what you think you need,'" Wilder recalled. Never shy, he didn't hesitate.

When the building's finished, we'll have a better idea of where needs converge with luxury, but here's an example of the frills available to football players: At the bottom of each locker will be a tray to catch the residue left on shoes after a practice on the state-of-the-art artificial turf, which comes with a fully integrated subsurface drainage system.

The tray is a small, insignificant touch, but it's another indication of the lengths ODU has gone to in order to dazzle prospects.

"Many of the kids we're interested in have been recruited by Virginia Tech and Maryland," Wilder said, "so they've seen much better."

Half the building is dedicated to football, the other half to lacrosse and field hockey, which will share a field for practices and games.

Having worked out of ancient, cramped Foreman Field, neither lacrosse coach Sue Stahl nor field hockey's Beth Anders are accustomed to lavish surroundings. But the sports center offers each of them two offices - administrative headquarters on the second floor, game-day battle stations on the first.

Stahl and Anders can't hide their excitement over their soon-to-be window views.

For them, moving to Powhatan Avenue is like being released from a root cellar. There's even a large outdoor balcony that looks down on the field.

The sports center is so nice that "this could be a venue for international field hockey tournaments or for the NCAA tournament," Anders said. Noting the four spacious women's locker rooms, she added, "It has anything that you'd need for a tournament."

Along with other sports construction that's sprung up on campus, Anders says she believes the new facility "changes the culture of this school. It changes who we are and who we will be."

Changed, too, is the landscape at the rear of ODU's campus. In both time and space, the Powhatan Sports Center fits.

Bob Molinaro, (757) 446-2373, bob.molinaro@pilotonline.com

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