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Extreme Makeover: Syracuse Upgrades its Football Facilities, What’s the Future?

BernheimerArchitecture.com

Update: 12:11p. Syracuse University unveiled its plans to renovate the existing football wing at Manley the day after this was posted. It will be a nice upgrade for the players, since $5M will be poured into the locker room, cafeteria, athlete lounge and auditorium. But it’s not the enormous splash we detailed below.

Gross’ ideas for the athletic program have always been big. So, don’t doubt for a minute his ultimate goals are to create a Melo Center-like facility for football just as he described to The Fizz. These drawings may not be imminent, but it’s most certainly what Gross envisions long term. The renovations announced are definitely more than a “fresh coat of paint,” but it’s still just the first step. No matter what the timeframe of an entire new practice field/complex would be, the announced improvements are great ammo to help recruiting.

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The designs released for a shiny new Syracuse football practice facility aren’t as far down the road as some believe. While Darryl Gross shrugged off the drawings displayed by Bernheimer Architecture, don’t confuse that for the potential of when it might happen.

The Fizz believes Gross has begun the bidding by firms to win the rights to design the new digs. Bernheimer is one of those firms, and developed prototypes and graphics for SU. The university has seen these, and Bernheimer is displaying its layouts on its website. This is no 3-day project completed by a part-time staffer. These are highly developed concepts by a respected firm, looking to win the bid. Bernheimer recently completed two condominium projects in West Chelsea, in New York City. There’s a relationship as well, Bernheimer was a Seinfeld Visiting Critic in Architecture at SU in 2008.

Last month, Gross spoke to The Fizz directly about plans for the new digs.

“We are very aggressive with football right now and fund raising for a football facility. We’ve got some things that are going to be in motion very, very soon. We recognize the need to – not so much an arms race – but a ‘needs race’ of what we need right now.”

Gross told us he envisions a Carmelo Center-esque facility for football, and that SU is far beyond the initial planning stages of it. Syracuse is close to making an announcement on either finalizing fund raising, or a projected timeline for a shovel to hit the dirt. Gross went on to tell us, SU athletics is trying to replicate the impact of the Melo Center.

“If you have Carmelo on one side, we want that football complex to stand out on the other side as well. They’re two cornerstones for the program, as far as revenues and doing those types of things. We’ve got to put that same kind of energy, as you mentioned, we see the results we’ve gotten since Carmelo Center opened.”

Ultimately, the lifeblood to college athletics is recruiting. And the understanding by Gross is that better facilities means better athletes.

“We’ve been able to enhance the (basketball) program. We’re going to do the same thing with football. We have a lot of people committed to it, and a lot of people who have sponsored it. It’s exciting for us right now, to get this football thing going. Because you can change coaches all you want. You got to have the resources, you have to have the creativity to change and do different things to try and make that recruiting get better.” 

The guess here is that Gross has been able to stir enough support within alumni donors to get a hefty chunk of the facility paid for. But there still needs to be a title endowment, something akin to what Carmelo gave for the hoops center. Gross has likely made calls to some of the bigger Orange names in the NFL right now, like Donovan McNabb and Dwight Freeney. But so far, none have bitten.

Which is why the timing of the hiring of Floyd Little makes so much sense. Bringing in an effervescent SU gridiron legend, who’s also a member of Canton, helps inject life and optimism to rebuilding the football brand – especially among former players.

The Fizz has harped on this for years, but it’s absolutely crucial for SU to land this practice facility now. In 2013, when moving to the ACC, Syracuse will be battling much deeper football wallets than the Big East. Instead of wooing players away from UConn and Cincinnati, now you’re in the same arena as Virginia Tech, Miami, Clemson, and Florida State. The timing couldn’t be more important, since SU doesn’t want to spend the first decade in its new conference getting its helmets smashed in.

Give Gross credit. He’s not looking to merely rip out a few lockers and slap on a fresh coat of paint. That wouldn’t add anything in the larger picture. SU is looking to go all in with a gleaming new football facility to bookend the Melo Center. While Gross stopped short of saying its an “arms race,” that’s exactly what it is.

Posted: D.A.

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