Minium: The new $3.5 million locker room is the latest upgrade for the ODU football program
Through Harry Minim
NORFOLK, Va.— The Old Dominion football team has recently moved into a new, state-of-the-art dressing room, which will not only provide the Monarchs with a larger and more functional space to get dressed, but will also become a valuable recruiting tool.
The 5,036 square foot facility at the LR Hill Sports Complex replaces an outdated locker room built in 2009 when ODU first began playing in the Football Championship Subdivision.
Coach Ricky Rahne said that ODU’s previous dressing room was not a facility that coaches and players were proud of. But that all changed on Sunday, when players reported to practice and opened their new lockers for the first time.
“It’s great,” linebacker Jason Henderson said. “It’s been a long time coming, but sometimes you have to wait for great things.
“It’s really amazing.”
ODU moved to the Football Bowl Subdivision in 2013 and is playing its first season in the Sun Belt Conference.
dr Wood Selig, ODU’s athletics director, said the new locker room facility is a “critical component” that ODU needs to compete in the Sun Belt, which he calls the nation’s premier Group 5 league.
“This was a much-needed addition for our players who have been in an outdated dressing room for too long,” he said. “But it was also necessary for us to recruit in the Sunbelt.
“Recruits buy with their eyes and this new home for ODU football student athletes will be just another in a long list of attractive selling points for our football program.”
“It’s a great upgrade,” added Rahne. “It will help us with recruitment but more importantly it’s a good place for our boys.
“It’s something that feels lighter. It was kind of dark and dingy there before. Now they have space and a facility to be proud of.”
The $3.5 million upgrade was funded entirely from athletic funds, with a large portion being raised by private donors from the Old Dominion Athletic Foundation, the university’s sports fundraising organization. No tax money was used.
The new facility includes 116 lockers, each 36 inches wide, 36 inches front to back and 96 inches high. Manufactured by Longhorn Lockers of Venus, Texas, they offer more storage and convenience than the old style lockers. They are similar, if not identical, to the lockers Longhorn built for the University of Texas.
“They’re on the larger side compared to most lockers,” said the athletics assistant director GregSmith, who was project leader. “That was intentional. We wanted to maximize the use of the space we had for the team and provide more for individuals.”
Each locker has a padded seat and three different storage spaces, each secured by a digital combination lock. The lockers are topped with a backlit screen that features a photo of each player with their hometowns and high schools below their names. The top personal item storage includes a plug for players to charge their phones.
The system was not only designed for use – it is also pleasing to the eye. The restroom facility includes 20 showers decorated with blue accent tiles, touchless sinks, and lighted mirrors you’d expect to find in a luxury hotel.
At least one of eleven 55-inch HDTVs is viewable from each locker, and there’s a stereo system with 14 inset JBL speakers with an 800-watt amplifier.
Backlit ODU logos are on every locker and in several places on the walls.
And as you enter the locker room, your gaze is drawn to a mural of the downtown Norfolk skyline with an ODU logo above it.
“When recruits come to visit, we imagine that we will photograph them there,” he said Bruce StewartAssistant Athletic Director and Chief Operating Officer.
“We wanted the locker room to be connected to the local community because that’s where we get our support from.”
The architectural work was a partnership with international firm Perkins+Will and regional architect Baskerville. The graphic design was created by national provider 49 Degrees.
Many of the design elements are not complete, but Rahne said the locker room is now functional, which is why the Monarchs moved in during their bye week.
The exterior hallway has also been redesigned and, like the locker room, pays homage to the Hampton Roads area with ‘Seven Cities’, ‘Norfolk’ and ‘757’ all featuring new art.
Rahne said Tim Kovacshead of football operations, Tristin IannoneDirector of player staff, and Stewart along with former equipment manager Dan Cornier were influential on the design.
“It turned out the way we imagined it would,” said Rahne. “And sometimes you don’t always understand that.”
The new facility is just the latest modernization undertaken to allow for ODU’s advancement into FBS and a corresponding increase in women’s sports teams.
ODU added an 11,000 square foot strength training facility to the LR Hill Sports Complex in 2017. It is also used by the field hockey, women’s lacrosse, and women’s rowing teams.
In 2019, ODU undertook a $75 million renovation and expansion of SB Ballard Stadium.
ODU also added two women’s sports teams, rowing and volleyball, and both are in relatively new facilities.
In 2009, ODU opened its 13,000 square foot rowing center on the Lafayette River at Lakewood Park in Norfolk, just a short drive from ODU. It contains changing rooms for 60 rowers and 40 rowing machines, as well as offices and storage rooms.
ODU renovated the basketball court and adjacent offices in the Jim Jarrett Athletic Building into the ODU Volleyball Center in 2020. The square has 900 seats, many with chair backs. The $3.1 million facility also features an expansive locker room with adjacent team room and ranks among the best facilities in Group 5.
Selig has said women’s beach volleyball will likely be the next sport to add ODU, although that seems years away.
ODU is also planning a $20 million renovation of Bud Metheny Baseball Stadium, thanks in part to a $2.5 million donation from local businessman Dennis Ellmer.
“Our goal is for all of our programs to have the facilities they need to compete for championships,” Selig said.
“We are constantly striving to improve our facilities.”
wide receiver Ali Jennings III agreed that it will help with recruitment.
“It really catches your eye,” he said.
But he said it also lifted the spirits of players who are already at ODU.
“We definitely feel like we have our own space now, a place where we can be comfortable and hang out,” he said.
“The locker room is a place where a lot of guys get together, get to know each other, learn things from each other. We feel so much more comfortable in the new dressing room.
“I’m glad they didn’t feel like they rushed it, that they took the time they needed.
“Because they did it right.”