The remodeling and renovation of the Valley Football Center at the north end of Reser Stadium is slowly taking shape.
The $42 million project is the latest piece in the athletics facilities equation for Oregon State University, which says it is determined to keep pace with its Pac-12 Conference opponents.
Since 2001 OSU has added a new Sports Performance Center, the Beth Ray Center for Academic Support, a new basketball practice facility, a track and field complex, the Samaritan Sports Medicine Center and other upgrades that have cost more than $200 million.
“It helps us stay competitive in football,” said Mark Massari, OSU deputy athletic director for capital projects and internal operations during a tour of the construction project with Gazette-Times reporters.
“Almost every program since the Pac-12 was formed (in 2011) has renovated their football stadium. Some, such as Cal and Washington, have redone the whole stadium. We have to keep up. And we can’t stop with the Valley Football Center. We have to get going on the west side, too.”
The upgrade of the Valley Football Center, which was builit in 1990, is part of phase three of a four-phase project to expand and modernize Reser Stadium Earlier phases added the east side seating areas and upgraded the south end zone. No timetable has been set for redoing the west side and pressbox section.
The project site is a jumble of construction fences, piles of drywall and heavy equipment, pipes and steel framing. But you can see where the university is going with this one, and here are some highlights:
• The new building will total 119,000 square feet, an increase of nearly 40,000. In addition, more than 25,000 square feet of existing space will be renovated.
• The building will jut out 50 feet farther than the current model, with most of the space devoted to a football hall of fame that will showcase the program’s heritage.
“There is no central place to show the history,” Massari said, “and football needs to have its own space. We’ve got the Heisman trophy (won by Terry Baker in 1962) in the coaches” offices.
• The new locker room will be 53 yards wide, the same as a football field, and will occupy more than thee times the space of its predecessor. Massari noted that the old locker room was built to accommodate 88 players. There are now 120, with an additional 60 people in the support staff.
The prized amenities in the team’s quarters are a pair of cold tubs right next to a sauna. Putting such facilities in the locker room “allows us to have a competitive advantage in recruiting,” said offensive lineman Will Hopkins, a junior to be from Austin, Texas. “Plus, having more space will really help us with pre-game preparation. It used to be real jumbled up in there.”
The Beavers will enter the field directly from the new locker room through an opening in the 12-foot-high wall.
• The bench seats in the north end zone have been removed, and the area will accommodate 600 fans in a premium seating section called the Terrace. Beer and wine will be sold in the area, which includes a large standing area that will hold 1,500 to 2,000 additional fans.
In addition, a deck is being built just outside the second-floor of the VFC which will be used by large groups of 60 to 75. The project will add a new seating section that will connect the west side with the new north end zone, although overall the capacity will drop from 45,674 to 43,363.
Season-ticket holders with family packages who used to sit in the north end zone will be moved to the south end zone.
• The project is being paid for entirely by donors, with the first $25 million coming from just two anonymous contributors. OSU officials say they are more than 90 percent of the way there, with Massari noting that the “last 5 yards are the hardest to get. Our fundraisers still are trying to get that last $2 million, but they’ll get it. $42 million goes pretty quickly.”
• The players’ lounge area will include a barbershop called the Fresh Cut Lodge. Please note that the athletes will pay for the trims. A free ankle taping and free sports drinks are OK with the NCAA. Free haircuts are not.
• Massari emphasized that visiting teams still will dress in the basement of Gill Coliseum and walk across Ralph Miller Drive and down a ramp to get to the field. “There are no new facilities for visiting teams,” he said.
Massari said that construction crews are aiming for “football functionality,” by August, which means the locker room, football offices and the new seating areas will be finished first.
Later in the fall the new north entrance, lobby and hall of fame will be completed and there will be a formal dedication at that time. By February of 2017 the final piece, a new larger auditorium, will be in place in the northwest corner of Reser.
Massari noted that “although the building will still be under construction during the season, it will not interfere with day-to-day operations or game-day activities."
From a position just beyond the construction fence where the footprint of the new Valley Football Center will end, Massari looked around and began pointing at facilities — the Truax Indoor Center, the practice fields, the Sports Performance Center and the Samaritan Sports Medicine Center.
“Our footprint of facilities is outstanding. You’re just a few feet away from everything,” Massari said. “Coach (Gary) Andersen’s eyes got wide when he saw this. At Wisconsin, the facilities were so far apart that athletes would have to get in their cars and drive to places.”
Hopkins, the OSU lineman, agreed.
“The little things are important,” he said.