Tuesday, August 21, 2012
USC officially opens new McKay Center
By Pedro Moura
The eight-word engraving around the main entrance to USC's new John McKay Center isn't exactly humble. But school officials say the university's long athletic history backs up the bold claim.
LOS ANGELES -- It's bold and it's brash, Mark Jackson admits of the main entrance to USC's new John McKay Center, a decade-in-the-making athletic facility that puts the school ahead of many of its competitors.
"But we think it's appropriate," says Jackson, the Trojans' senior associate athletic director who supervised the building's construction.
Above the front door to the building reads what can only be described as a bold proclamation: "Through this portal enter the world's greatest athletes."
The interior of the structure expresses similar sentiments written differently. "We own L.A." is written in block capital letters behind where coach Lane Kiffin will stand in the Trojans' football auditorium. "We run the Rose Bowl" is written elsewhere.
USC believes the university's traditions -- and the new facility -- backs up the claims. Included in the $70 million, 110,000-square foot facility, which opened last month but got officially introduced to donors Tuesday, is a two-story high-definition screen, a leathered-out players' lounge and an indoor practice field.
And there's more: There are computer labs galore, replete with both Macs and PC's. The new all-sport weight room is twice as big as the old weight room -- and nearly twice as tall, too, as strength and conditioning coach Aaron Ausmus pointed out. The football locker room is far bigger than the Heritage Hall locker room, and far breathier, with ionized air being blown in all day. Every player gets an iPad with his locker.
Officials said over and over that it'll eliminate USC's biggest recruiting disadvantage: Heritage Hall's age. Now, the Trojans don't have to avoid talking about their outdated facility. They can embrace their up-to-date one -- at least for the next few years, until competitors start to catch up themselves.
"It's a huge advantage," Kiffin said Tuesday. "Not only did we catch up, because we were way behind our conference and the country, but we probably passed everybody."
USC's locker room pulled a page out of Oregon's book, with a locker-room lighting dimmer outfitted with five different pre-set options, and an interactive video presentation for each sport's uniform choices.
Recruits on official visits can see what the gameday jerseys, travel wear and practice gear will look like for their specific sport.
Jackson, 40, supervised the construction of the center since January 2011 in coordination with Advent, a Tennessee-based company that designs facilities for universities across the country. When assistant coach Monte Kiffin saw Jackson leading the tour, he laughed and congratulated him.
"This is your Super Bowl, huh?" Kiffin told Jackson.
Final notes: The TV screen was made by Big Screen Networks, the same company that produced the HD screens used at the venues for the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver. ... USC is now hoping to raise $30 million more to renovate Heritage Hall, with that project supposed to start in January 2013. ... There are lockers reserved for Darreus Rogers, Isiah Wiley and Marquis Simmons, three players who have not yet academically qualified for the 2012 season.