To be the best, you have to act and look like the best. That is the mindset Florida Atlantic Athletics is taking as they move on from Conference USA and enter the American Athletic Conference on July 1st.
With the standard continuing to be set higher for the athletics department, this involves making major upgrades to their facilities to compete with the best programs The American has to offer.
While FAU Stadium won't be receiving significant changes, the Burrow at Eleanor R. Baldwin Arena, FAU Baseball Stadium, the Tom Oxley Athletic Center, and the Hagerty Family Athletics Village have some big plans in store for upgrades that will propel them toward state-of-the-art status as the program launches into the AAC this summer.
The newly-branded Athletics Village will consist of Baldwin Arena, FAU Baseball Stadium, Tom Oxley Center, Joan Joyce Field, FAU Soccer Stadium, tennis courts, beach volleyball courts, the swimming facility, and the track and field.
"We want to do everything we can to improve our facilities and become more competitive with those member institutions we're gonna be competing against, so every area in the department is sprinting into the American in a way that is in a very positive, optimistic, excited manner," Athletics Director Brian White said.
"We're not going in just to be a member of the American; we want to go in to be highly competitive and compete at the highest level of The American in all sports."
White and his administration have been diligent in gathering as much money as possible via donations and fundraising to see these upgrades come to fruition. Of the $36.3 million total the department has raised under his tenure, $18.25 million will be allocated toward facilities that need major improvements. Of note, this figure surpasses all prior administrations to come before combined.
Below fellow Owl's Nest staffer Rick Henderson and myself will outline each area that will be receiving the funding for upgrades. Of note, Possibilities sections for all entries include forward thinking analysis and projections that are considered speculative unless noted as official. All material considered is subject to change. Additionally, Latest sections are derived from the University project management office.
Eleanor R. Baldwin Arena
- Brand-new practice facility
- Expanded seating
- Expanded entrances
- Expanded coaches' offices
- Entry way repositioning
A budget for feasibility study was approved in late March with appropriate documentation forwarded to the Business Office. Project Setup is in progress.
Estimated Completion Date TBD and ongoing with some portions as early as Spring 2024
Having witnessed arguably the most successful season in the University's history with the men's basketball team making their run to the Final Four, it is well within the department's purview to upgrade Baldwin Arena to match the standards set by other arenas in The American.
The locker rooms at Baldwin Arena have undergone a complete upgrade, making them "state-of-the-art" for both the men's and women's programs that utilize the facility.
"It's a world of difference between what was the locker room. There was a hallway and two smaller rooms, and now we've kind of blown it up and made it one big room," White stated.
"It's exactly everything that you want in a locker room, brand-new and beautiful and that is probably a good indicator at a minimum how the rest of the arena should look."
This summer, the department will work on offering the bowl area new lighting and a new aesthetic graphics package to give that part of the arena a better look before the 2023-24 season.
The $7.5 million gift they received from Eleanor R. Baldwin to name the arena will be the main driver for the renovation of the formerly named FAU Arena.
White wants the arena to be "completely reimagined." The current plans include a practice facility, adding another row of floor seats, and blowing out the upstairs suite area to turn it into a club room. They will also look at the possibility of expanding the entrances and coaches' offices for the arena.
With $7.5 million at their disposal, the department has ample resources to turn these renovations into a reality.
FAU Baseball Stadium
- Paradise Hill
- Right side berm overhang
- Lighting upgrades
- Outfield wall upgrades
- Indoor practice facility
The stadium site portion of the overall project is in progress with Brightview currently working the proposal. Architects are preparing documentation for the indoor practice facility for Surface Feet Per Minute (SFM) approval. A set of drawings were sent to State Contracting in late April to start the Guaranteed Maximum Price (GMP) proses.
Estimated Completion Date Partial Spring 2024 and ongoing
It is probable for one to expect the baseball stadium to have an indoor performance center before the program plays their first season in the AAC. White said the biggest project for baseball is the indoor site for the stadium as it's in the works.
The new indoor facility is planned to be located where the outdoor public tennis courts currently stand, which runs parallel to the northernmost outer border of the water plant. Additionally, the department is considering adding a small playground behind the east side berms of the stadium to attract families and local clubs for outings during the week and on weekends. The department is also exploring shading options.
With the $1 million gift they received from an anonymous donor and part of the $5 million donation from the Hagerty family that will benefit all programs within the area of the athletics village (which baseball is in), White said it will be a significant improvement for the sport.
"We have new lighting and shaved down the berm but we want to do a lot more," said White. "I would love a new baseball stadium as everybody knows, I know it's been talked about. We'd love new facilities in all of our sports and with baseball, it is particularly deserving and a particular need."
Although the program aims to have a brand new state-of-the-art facility in the long run and uses it as a top pitch for potential donors, the development staff of the department focuses on finding the right fit for the opportunity in their weekly meetings. State funds are no longer available for building athletics facilities in Florida, necessitating private funds to drive the necessary change.
For now, the department's main initiative is to create a dedicated standalone indoor practice, hitting, and pitching facility, which can be achieved with the currently available funding. However, unforeseen delays have impeded the upgrade's progress. Charlotte, a new American program, serves as an example of how long state universities take to complete projects similar to this, as theirs took two years to finish.
White believes the upgrades to the baseball stadium will have an exponential impact on the University's capacity to attract and retain student-athletes within the program, greatly enhancing its recruiting efforts.
"The better our baseball stadium and our baseball facility is, that's going to help baseball recruitment and that's going to help the brand of our whole athletic department," he remarked.
Tom Oxley Center
- Upgraded training room
- Upgraded weight room
- Upgraded film room
- New student-athlete lounge
Athletic officials met with end users and Harvard Jolly for a walk-thru of the site. A meeting was held to define the scope of the project in late February, and stakeholders are awaiting on a proposal from the Assistant Engineer.
Estimated Completion Date TBD
Thanks to the generosity of Michael and Michelle Hagerty, the Tom Oxley Center will undergo significant structural and cosmetic updates, including offices, weight rooms, and training areas. The entire building will be redone from the inside out, providing a brand-new feel that will be huge for 18 of FAU's 19 sports.
"We are honored and excited to continue our commitment to the young men and women representing Florida Atlantic University as student-athletes," the Hagertys said. "This gift is meant to ensure that all student-athletes are able to enjoy and thrive in a world-class sports facility. It's been a real pleasure watching FAU continue to build a national reputation athletically and academically."
According to White, the Tom Oxley Center has tremendous potential to be an Olympic sport hub for all the programs on campus, which can happen by renovating the facility and making it similar to the Schmidt Complex. With the $5 million donation they received from the Hagerty Family to name the athletics village, the Oxley will be one of the first to receive the funding.
"The main entrance can be a beautiful recruiting tool when you walk a prospective student-athlete in and something that our current student-athletes and our current coaches can be proud of going into every single day," White explained.
"The weight room at Oxley was definitely a little tight for our football program, but for every other sport program we have, it's a good size and so why can't that be state-of-the-art and beautiful like the one we have in here."
The training room, the weight room, and the film room in the Oxley will receive upgrades that will likely have rooms similar to the ones close to the football stadium. According to White, they also want to transform the Founders Lounge and make it into a student-athlete lounge for all student-athletes to use.
"There's a much different feel when you go to work every day or go to practice every day for our student-athletes in a place that feels brand new and a place that feels like it's been really well taken care of and updated and the equipment is state of the art and modern," said White.
"It can be a point of pride in our programs for recruiting, for everyday usage, and something that can be a competitive advantage."
The upgrades will present valuable opportunities for programs that have long been overlooked in terms of facility assistance. Overall, this initiative will significantly address this critical area of need and have a substantial impact.
FAU Beach Volleyball Courts
- New scoreboard
- Expanded courts
A revised budget to upgrade the scoreboard was submitted to the key stakeholders, and is pending approval. FAU Project Management (PM) and the vendor's PM had a team meeting on March 28 and discussed execution protocol. FAU PM is currently planning an on-site kick-off meeting. A Geotech report was received and a copy was sent to the vendor.
Estimated Completion Date December 2023
Beach volleyball is another program that will get significant updates to its facilities.
Coming off back-to-back seasons where they have qualified for the NCAA Tournament, they are creating the biggest success the program has ever seen without the ability to play all five of their matches at once during their home games.
That will change before next season with the courts being expanded, and a new scoreboard coming into the picture.
"To be able to play all of your matches at once is a huge improvement versus playing three and then waiting and then playing two," White explained. "It's something that is important to our coach."
FAU Tennis Courts
- New lighting
A Purchase Order (PO) to change the lighting has been issued to NGU, the lighting vendor. FAU Project Management (PM) and the vendor's PM had a team meeting and discussed execution protocol. FAU PM is currently planning an on-site kick-off meeting. A Geotech report was received, and a copy was sent to the vendor.
Estimated Completion Date August 2023
The tennis programs are not the only ones that utilize the tennis courts on campus. Clubs, students, and the rest of the FAU community also use the courts for their enjoyment.
However, the lack of lighting has prevented games from being played at night. The department is looking into solving that issue.
"It's hot during the day; it's just a reality. To be able to have matches at night, we can get more of the community out, but it would benefit all of our students to be able to use the tennis courts at night more often," White said. "We want to make sure we're working well with the campus on that, so [having] the tennis lights will be huge."
Thanks to a $640,000 donation from Kimberly V. Strauss that will exclusively benefit the tennis facilities on campus, the program is well on its way to raising its standards across the board.
FAU Track and Field
- New facility
- New fencing
- New track
A $950,000 budget was sent to user for stakeholder approval.
Estimated Completion Date August 2023
The track and field area is home to four of FAU's sports: men's and women's cross country, and the indoor/outdoor track programs. All of them will benefit from a new track facility making its way this summer.
The new track facility, named after the Hagerty Family with their $5 million gift to the athletics village, could open up as soon as August.
"It'll be a brand-new facility and new fencing, new track, and several new areas that will be improvements and current usages that we don't even have, so we're excited about the new track," White remarked.
FAU Softball Stadium
- Shade installation
There are no projects in the system at present but options are being actively evaluated.
Having a successful season under first-year head coach Jordan Clark, the program might be well on its way to getting some upgrades.
While there are no official projects in progress for softball, they will be included in the $5 million donation to the athletics village that will provide to all the programs in the area.
One upgrade that may be on the way for the recently-named Joan Joyce Field is having some shade put in place. Fans attending the games, particularly those that start in the daytime, are subject to hot temperatures and warm seats unless they bring umbrellas. While installing shade is one step in resolving that issue, it will go a long way to making the experience more enjoyable for fans of the softball program.
The biggest takeaway White wants the FAU community to have from all of these upgrades is the constant strive for improvement the athletics department is trying to pursue with every decision they make.
"We want our donors to be proud that they made a positive impact on our student-athlete experience, and facilities is a definite part of our student-athlete experience," White said.
The $36.3 million accumulated over the past few years under White will play a significant role in elevating all the facilities to the required standard, ensuring the continued provision of a first-class student-athlete experience. The ongoing fundraising momentum will further drive the department towards acquiring additional gifts and contributions.
We hope this extensive update has been both informative and valuable for all members of the FAU community. Special thanks goes out to Brian White and other department and university staff who made it possible to present.