When I visited Texas A&M last month I had the pleasure of going on an athletics facilities tour with Kevin Hurley, Associate Athletic Director for Construction and Facilities. Considered collectively, A&M’s facilities are top-notch. The only major improvements needed are to Kyle Field and the football training facilities, and there appear to be plans for that in the near future.
I took plenty of pictures and notes so I could take you on a tour of the facilities as well.
First up was the basketball arena and attached practice facilities.
Here you can see the floor being put down for volleyball. Reed Arena seats 12,500 and has no suites. However, Hurley tells me they could fit 10 if there was a demand for suites. I’ve written previously about how suites can make all the difference in which schools are profiting from basketball and which are not.
Hurley says men’s basketball averages 6,700-7,700 per home game, and women’s basketball averages 3,000-3,200. The numbers drop greatly when games are held while school is out of session. Student attendance keeps the place nearly full when games are played while students are on campus.
Although Reed Arena is not large enough to hold the men’s basketball finals, A&M is hosting the 2012 NCAA Women’s Basketball Championship in March.
This portion of Reed Arena, where competition is held for basketball and volleyball, is owned by a separate entity outside of the school and leased by the athletic department. However, the next stop on our tour, the practice facilities, are owned by the school and are on par with the best I’ve seen in the country.
When you walk into the building that houses the men’s and women’s basketball practice facilities you enter an atrium. To one side you enter the men’s facilities and to the other you enter the women’s facilities. They are mirror images of one another. Each includes a practice court, weight room, training room, locker room, and a lounge.
Above is the weight room on the men’s side. Below is the lounge for the player’s and a meeting room.
Now comes the most impressive locker I’ve seen at any Division I school. Each men’s and women’s basketball player has a locker like the one pictured below – complete with computer, desk and chair.
Below are pictures of the empty locker room and the training room on the men’s side.
Next up was the women’s soccer field…
Although I haven’t visited all of the softball stadiums in the SEC, I’m told A&M’s (seen below) will fall near the bottom of the pile, while baseball (not pictured because it’s undergoing massive renovations) will be one of the top two or three.
Swim and dive facilities are a part of the student recreation center and are rented by the athletic department for practicies and meets.
There are only a handful of indoor tracks on college campuses around the nation, and I’m told by many from within and outside the school that Texas A&M’s indoor track facility is the very best.
The facility that is probably next in line for a facelift is Texas A&M’s weight room for football, located just behind the south end zone. Should the rumored plans to add seating in the south end zone come to fruition, I don’t see how this building could remain intact in its current location. I’m guessing that means a new one will be constructed. There’s nothing wrong with the current facility, it just hasn’t been updated as recently as the other athletic facilities.
There’s also a nice lounge for the football players…
The football locker room is as nice as any I’ve seen, but I still think the basketball players have the best lockers.
At each school I’ve visited, I always ask about capital campaigns for athletics. At A&M they’ve gone to project-based capital campaigns instead of big generic athletics campaigns. They’ve found they often have donors who are interested in a particular sport. For example, right now they have a potential donor who might be interested in adding clay courts to the tennis complex. No other Division I school has clay tennis courts. While they wouldn’t be used in competition, it could be used as a recruiting tool to lure tennis players with pro aspirations.
The other thing I noticed at A&M that you don’t see at every school is separate weight rooms and training facilities for nearly every sport. There are a few sports grouped together, like basketball and volleyball, but there are many small weight rooms and training rooms instead of one big one of each that all athletes have to share. Not every school has gone to this model. Some believe it’s best not to segregate the athletes from one another. However, if you have the money, this setup sure was nice.
Overall, I was impressed with many of A&M’s facilities. The basketball practice gyms and accompanying weight rooms, training rooms and locker rooms were the best I’ve seen anywhere and are comparable to the more highly publicized facilities at Louisville (which I’ll detail in a later post).
Plenty of building and renovation has taken place during Bill Byrne’s tenure at Texas A&M, so expect to see more upgrades in the future.
Thank you to Athletic Director Bill Byrne and Associate Athletic Director Kevin Hurley for letting me take a peek inside A&M’s facilities!
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