nike air max de hombre Oregon Embraces ‘University of Nike’ Image
EUGENE, Ore. The Football Performance Center at the University of Oregon features rugs woven by hand in Nepal, couches made in Italy and Brazilian hardwood underfoot in the weight room that is so dense, designers of this opulent palace believe it will not burn.
This is Oregon football. There is a barbershop with utensils from Milan. And a duck pond. And a locker room that can be accessed by biometric thumbprints. And chairs upholstered with the same material found in a Ferrari’s interior. And walls covered in football leather. teams jealous. It is, more than anything, a testament to college football’s arms race, to the billions of dollars at stake and to the lengths that universities will go to field elite football programs.
The performance center was paid for through a donation from Phil Knight, a founder of Nike, an Oregon alumnus and a longtime benefactor of the university. During a tour of the complex Wednesday, university officials declined to give a dollar figure, even a ballpark one, insisting they did not know the total cost of a football center where even the garbage cans were picked with great care to match the overall design. (Early design estimates placed the center’s cost at $68 million, which, based on the tour, seemed conservative.)
“We are the University of Nike,” said Jeff Hawkins, the senior associate athletic director of football administration and operations. “We embrace it. We tell that to our recruits.”
The center is also an answer to how the Ducks turned a mediocre program into an unlikely powerhouse in a city of just more than 150,000 people. Where other schools, the Alabamas and Notre Dames, sold tradition, Oregon peddled the future. It rolled out a series of uniforms, neon and blinding white and every shade of green, designed to attract both athletes and attention. The center is divided into three buildings, all black and shiny rectangular blocks, connected by a sky bridge. Those buildings and everything around them are black and boxy by design. Made of black granite, corrugated metal and fritted glass, the elements are arranged like pieces of a Jenga game to show cohesion between units (they also look like the shell of an impenetrable force). A local newspaper quoted an architect who described it as a “Darth Vaderish Death Star.” The designers took that as a compliment.
“The space, flow and efficiency are not excessive,” Hawkins said. “From what we had to what we have now, it fits what we need to teach.”
For Oregon football, black is the new black, down to the black toilets in the locker room that were described, perhaps in jest, as stealth. The athletes wanted it to look cool, and architects balanced their needs down to the custom green PlayStation consoles and pool tables made by the same Portland company that designed two for Michael Jackson with those of the coaches, who are older and spend most of their waking hours in the center and wanted, more than anything, a diverse selection of after shave.
Throughout the tour, Eugene Sandoval, design partner at ZGF Architects, and Randy Stegmeier, principal interior designer at Firm 151, returned often to their favorite buzzwords, which they said guided the design: sleek, bombastic,
cutting edge. They said things like, “the material palate is elevated to a very sophisticated level” and “you will see sequencing of form and function of space.”
In simpler terms, Sandoval explained that “this sports facility has a soul.”
“It’s about not being afraid to make history,” he continued.
The soul of Oregon’s football operations center, then, is an all black room on a top floor known as both the War Room and Area 51.
There are 22 seats at the table, and they are assigned, with the head coach at head and others placed next to him based on order of importance. The table is German and walnut and 35 feet long. The rug is shaped in an “O” and made in Nepal and weighs 500 pounds. The walls are magnetic and can be written on, part of Oregon football’s goal to eventually operate without paper. (No word on if the seats eject. Or if Coach Mark Helfrich is in possession of nuclear launch codes.)
Oregon’s search for improved facilities started eight years ago. The first trip featured 11 people in a private jet, architects and designers and contractors and school officials, and they visited nine universities in three days. They studied counterparts in the Big Ten, Big 12 and Southeastern conferences. At one point, Sandoval traveled 37 hours to China to find a specific rock quarry, which ultimately produced the stones in the ground floor plaza.
The small details stand out. The bathrooms with green stalls and mirrors with painted Ducks slugging conference foes. The extra large furniture tested to withstand 500 pounds. The elevators decorated with famous plays in Oregon football history, the actual plays, drawn up in Xs and Os by a coach. The room for professional scouts to watch footage of Oregon players. The ticker running sports scores.
On and on, for football’s sake:
The foosball tables from Barcelona in the players’ lounge. The ventilation systems in each locker. The magic shelves that charge phones or tablet devices without the need to plug in. The 250 plus televisions.
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The Ring Room, shaped like an O, with rings underneath green neon light and audio created by Finnish engineers using game day sound from Autzen Stadium. The cafeteria, this being the Pacific Northwest, with the espresso machine and the farm to table philosophy and the sign that reads, “Eat Your Enemies And Other Food Groups.” The terrazzo floors made with recycled glass. The 40 yard electronic track inside the weight room that measures the force of each step and the efficiency of each run.
The coaches have their own locker room, complete with a hydrotherapy pool and steam shower, made from blue stone slate, and, of course, dozens of kinds of after shave in front of the bathroom mirrors, which feature built in televisions.
Gary Campbell, one of the longest tenured assistants in college sports at the same university, with three decades spent at Oregon, once worked with three other coaches in an office the same size as his current one, in the basement of the basketball court. When he inched backward, he bumped into his office mates. “There is no comparison,” he said Wednesday, in front of his couch and his two computer monitors and his three televisions, the office paneled in walnut, the smell somewhere between new car and Pottery Barn showroom.
Welcome to college football, circa 2013, where the best programs build Ritz Carltons as much as Olympic training facilities and call them football centers, where a university like Oregon, which raised its profile and millions of dollars in revenue through football, must defend its space age approach.
“People will complain, but this is not excessive,” said Rob Mullens, the university’s athletic director. “This is probably the most complete space in college sports.”