By Amelia Rayno, Star Tribune (Minneapolis) –
LINCOLN, Neb. — Some look at a college basketball practice facility and see a necessary part of a successful puzzle. Others see an effective tool for netting the best young players. Still others look at it as a simple ode to excess.
Minnesota men’s coach Tubby Smith looks at these lavish complexes and wonders why — in a Big Ten Conference where every school except Minnesota and Northwestern has one — his team still lags behind. Perhaps Smith wants evidence of the same sentiment Nebraska coach Doc Sadler sees in the Cornhuskers’ 80,000-square-foot Hendricks Training Complex, which is new this season.
“Commitment is something everybody talks about, but this shows our commitment,” Sadler said shortly after the October unveiling.
With the Gophers playing at Nebraska on Sunday, Smith and his staff and players were able to tour the facility over the weekend. A separate tour Monday revealed what they saw: The $18.7 million addition to the Bob Devaney Sports Center is at once stunning, functional and over-the-top.
There are separate identical, sound-proofed practice courts — which stretch full-court on all four sides — for men’s and women’s basketball, with off-court auxiliary rooms to treat injuries. A classroom has theater-style seats with swivel-arm tables facing a wall-size video screen.
A 5,000-square-foot weight room connects to an area where players can get supplements and shakes. Locker rooms have hot and cold pools and towel warmers, and iPads are built into every player’s locker. Each custom shower stall has built-in speakers and multiple shower heads.
Every bathroom stall contains a television, and flatscreens are peppered throughout nearly every space in the complex. A players lounge contains 400 inches’ worth of TVs on one wall, mounted above a wide, custom-built couch. There is a pool table, a kitchen and massage chairs.
“They wanted a place where the players could relax, hang out, be with each other, more or less,” team spokesman Shamus McKnight said.
But of course, it’s more than that. McKnight said the Huskers hope the facility — which was fully funded by alumni donations and fundraising — will be a major recruiting tool, particularly for a men’s team that went 7-9 in the Big 12 last season and currently sits 11th in the 12-team Big Ten.
The same formula could be helpful for the Gophers. Smith reiterated last week that a practice facility is a “need.” At a proposed price tag of $15 million, such a facility will require major fundraising and be a top agenda item for the next athletic director.
“Fundraising is always a huge process, especially in this day in time,” Smith said. “In this community, the competition for the entertainment dollars is unbelievable with so many pro teams and colleges. But we’ll get (a practice facility) done.”