By Jeff White
CHARLOTTESVILLE — The UVa athletics department’s drive to build an indoor practice facility for the Cavaliers’ football program continues to gain momentum.
For a project that will cost $13 million, $8.4 million has been committed, Jon Oliver, UVa’s executive associate athletics director, said Tuesday. And now donors — as well as prospective donors — can actually see what the facility will look like.
The University received renderings of the project Monday from D.C.-based Bowie Gridley Architects. (They are pictured below.) The facility, which other UVa field sports also will be able to use, is to cover one of the two fields on which coach Mike London’s football team currently practices behind University Hall and the McCue Center.
Oliver said the Virginia Athletics Foundation hopes to have pledges for the remaining $4.6 million by February 2012. UVa would like to break ground on the project by late spring 2012.
The University is in the process of selecting an architect to do the final design.
“It’s important for us to keep this moving along, because we want it to be done for 2013,” Oliver said. “If you think about the great job that Mike’s done with his recruiting, this is another step in that process to help us build a program, and we want to make this a priority, because we want the facility on-line by the start of football practice in August of 2013.
“Craig Littlepage, our athletics director, has indicated that the facility is the No. 1 priority in the athletics department.”
Schools such as Georgia Tech, Duke and Auburn have recently opened indoor practice facilities, and similar structures are planned at Clemson, Florida State and Virginia Tech. The Hokies already have an indoor facility — Rector Field House — in which their football team can practice in bad weather.
Last month, UVa’s Board of Visitors approved the addition of the facility, which will be about 78,000 square feet, to the University’s Capital Projects Program. The athletics department will go back to the Board of Visitors for approval of the design at a subsequent meeting.
With the renderings now available to show prospective donors, the Virginia Athletics Foundation “can truly ramp up the fund-raising effort,” Oliver said. “We cannot move forward with the project unless we have $13 million in written pledges, so with roughly four months to go we have some work to do to reach our goal.”
In late August, as Virginia’s football opener approached, Oliver spoke about the importance of the project. An indoor facility will help London’s program immensely, Oliver said, “because the stratosphere that we’re trying to enter in terms of recruiting, and getting [elite] student-athletes to take a look at us, requires that we have what everybody else has in place.
“We’re not trying to enter into an arms race. We’re going to do what’s right for the University of Virginia. But there are some basic things you need to have in place … We’re not trying to build a Taj Mahal. We’re trying to do what it takes to be competitive on an annual basis.”
The Cage in Onesty Hall offers a covered space for football but little else.
“You don’t want to go in there,” London said in late August, “because it’s just not conducive to having 120 guys in there and throwing the ball and running.”
The same is true for John Paul Jones Arena, where the football team had a less-than-productive practice on the concrete floor — the basketball court had been taken up — during an August thunderstorm.
“That is not what you want to be doing with a field sport,” Oliver said.
UVa (1-1, 4-2) hosts ACC rival NC State (0-2, 3-3) at 3:30 p.m. Saturday at Scott Stadium. The Wahoos need two more victories to become bowl-eligible for the first time since 2007.