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Friday, April 6, 2012
A look into USC's new athletic facility

By Pedro Moura


Pedro Moura/ESPNLA.com
USC's brand-new 40-yard turf practice field is located underground at the school's $70 million, 110,000-square foot John McKay Center, scheduled to be ready for football season to begin in August.

Two hundred and seventy-eight interconnected 15-inch television screens forming one gigantic two-floor video wall. A weight room and underground practice field eight times as big as its counterpart in the current facility. Specialized nutrition and sports-medicine centers and pre-installed iPads in all 114 of the football lockers.

USC's $70 million John McKay Center is going to be cutting-edge, alright. The 110,000-square foot building was showcased to the media on Thursday in an hour-long tour led by senior associate athletic director Mark Jackson and introduced on video by athletic director Pat Haden. It's a three-level facility meant to replace the now-outdated Heritage Hall.

Located underground are the 40-yard AstroTurf practice field, the weight room and football locker room, as well as the passageway to Heritage. On the main level are the academic facilities, including 25 tutorial computer stations, an computer lab and a study area. Outdoors will be a tribute to John McKay and, to the south, a 90-yard intramural field.

On the top level are the football coaches' offices, team meeting rooms, a smaller-than-expected team auditorium and an outdoor dining area. The head coach's suite overlooks the northern half of Howard Jones Field.

Other features include a players' lounge for which 10 current Trojans were consulted, a recruiting lounge and biometric entrances.

The exterior to the building is almost all done. The interior is still in progress, with the underground stuff the most far along and the above-ground the least. The plan is to have it ready sometime in mid- to late-July, which will leave time to acquire the necessary permits before football's fall camp begins in earnest the first week of August.

"We'll get it before camp starts," Jackson told a crowd of media members when pressed for an exact opening date. "I don't know when in July we'll get it, but I'm confident we'll get it."

Asked afterward what would happen if it wasn't ready by the time football started, Jackson cringed.

"When football season starts, it's chaos," he said. "If we don't get it ready by then, it'll be a nightmare."

Asked about the facility after Thursday's practice, USC coach Lane Kiffin said he was not overwhelmingly involved in the project. Jackson came up with ideas and ran them by him, but he didn't do much of his own suggesting, he said.

That's not to say Kiffin's not happy with its status. He said it'll do wonders to catch USC up in what has long been its primary recruiting weakness.

"As you can see it's about recruiting," Kiffin said later Thursday. "So now that we have this, walking through it already, it's already helped in recruiting the last class that signed and this class that we're getting started on now and it's not even done yet so it'll be a great impact for us. Because it really gets rid of the one negative that we have was our facilities.

"We were a long ways behind. And so to not just catch up but pass other people is really big."

Jackson estimated the facility was about three decades overdue but said the Trojans hope they'll be about 10 years ahead of everybody else by the time it's finished.