State-of-the-art facility

The opening of the McKay Center will give USC a facility that's second to none

Updated: April 6, 2012, 5:41 PM ET
By Garry Paskwietz | WeAreSC

LOS ANGELES -- There is a lot of excitement these days around the USC campus regarding a new fall camp arrival that is expected to have a big impact on the Trojans program.

It's not a new elite recruit that has the USC community buzzing. Instead, it is the John McKay Center, the new 110,000-square foot facility that will house the USC football program as well as all athletic department academic and training support.

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Erik McKinney/WeAreSC.comThe John McKay Center, which is set to open in August, will replace Heritage Hall, which will serve as a museum.
Built at a cost of $70 million, the McKay Center will be located in an area just west of Heritage Hall, the current on-campus athletic facility which opened in 1971.

USC senior associate athletic director Mark Jackson -- who has played a key role in overseeing the project -- gave a tour of the facility on Thursday to media members in anticipation of the building being completed in time for fall camp in August.

"We knew our facilities needed an upgrade so we visited 25 other sites to see what else was out there," Jackson said. "The McKay Center will give us the opportunity to accomplish our two main goals at USC. The first is to graduate our student-athletes. Over 600 athletes in 21 sports will get the academic support they need in all areas. The second goal is to train, treat and prepare these athletes to compete in their sports at the highest level."

The McKay Center will have three levels; an underground basement that will house the training and weight room facilities as well as the football locker room, the ground floor level, which will focus entirely on academic services, and the second floor, which will be the home to the football program offices.

The exterior of the McKay Center was built with a lot of brick in a "collegiate-romanesque" style, according to Jackson, to help blend with the other buildings on the USC campus. The primary entrance will come from the south side with an archway entrance that will feature the slogan "Through this portal enter the world's greatest athletes." In keeping with USC tradition, there will also be a tower as part of the building, which will connect all three floors. The interior will feature a modern and clean look with lots of glass and natural light. There will also be an emphasis on visual technology with the prevalent use of video throughout, including a two-story video board that will rise above the main lobby and serve as a showcase feature of the building.

"The video board will give us the opportunity to highlight any element of the university," Jackson said. "We'll have a full production staff dedicated to producing content that will feature athletes from all of our sports."

The basement is the biggest floor at 60,000 square feet, which will allow for a workout area that is eight times the size of the available training space at the current Heritage Hall location. Among the highlights are a 40-yard by 30-yard turf field with a raised roof, a full nutrition center, hydrotherapy pools and an expanded sports performance and recovery areas.

All workouts will also be available on video, both for a player to immediately watch and review but also to possibly save for use on the records wall. For instance, if a player sets a USC bench press mark, no longer will that accomplishment be recognized simply with a plaque on a wall. It will now be highlighted as part of a video element on the wall where any record performance is available to be shown at any time.

In addition to the football locker room -- which will feature iPads in each locker so that players can monitor schedules and watch film -- there will also be a football-only players lounge that was designed in consultation with several current players to insure that it will feature the bells and whistles that a college student would enjoy.

"It was like putting together a Christmas list," USC cornerback Nickell Robey said. "They came to us and asked what we wanted to see in there. There will be a lot of video games, some big TVs and sofas, a dominoes table, a Pop-A-Shot game. There will be an area in there with a fridge where we can eat or sit at a table to do some homework. Basically it will be a place where we can come and relax. We can even sleep there if we want."

When it comes time to practice, the players will exit the locker room and head up the All-American walk, a tunnel which will feature tributes to the USC football All-Americans through the years. At the end of the tunnel there will be an archway with Greek lettering that will say "A sound mind and sound body" as an ode to USC President Max Nikias, who is of Greek heritage.

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Erik McKinney/WeAreSC.comSeveral USC logos, signs and video boards will greet athletes entering the McKay Center once it is completed.
The ground floor academic services area will feature a study room, computer labs and tutorial space. There will also be two outdoor areas; one is a courtyard gathering spot for the athletes at the east end which will feature two fire pits while the other will be a plaza tribute to former USC coach John McKay, for whom the building is named.

One of the prominent items of display in the ground floor lobby will be a large photo of a group that is being dubbed "The Ambassadors", former players who represent the history of USC football. The photo -- which will be taken at the Peristyle section of the Coliseum at the spring game -- will feature Trojans such as Junior Seau, Marcus Allen, Ronnie Lott and Tony Boselli.

The second floor will be the home to the football program meeting rooms, coaches office and video staff. There will also be the Marv Goux recruiting lounge with a outdoor veranda and two fire pits (the recruiting lounge will be available for use by all 21 USC sports). Lane Kiffin's office suite is expansive with a view facing west over the Brian Kennedy-Howard Jones practice field.

Several former USC players have donated money for naming rights in the new facility, such as the Mark Sanchez quarterback meeting room. Others who have contributed include Ryan and Matt Kalil, Sam Cunningham, Lynn Swann, Keyshawn Johnson and Carson Palmer.

Once the McKay Center is open, the athletic department will quickly look to begin revamping Heritage Hall in January 2013.

"We want to turn Heritage Hall into more of a museum showcase for USC athletics," Jackson said. "It will still hold our athletic administration, our development staff, sports information and our Pac-12 network production crew but we also want it to be a place that the public can enjoy. We recognize that Heritage Hall means a lot to the Trojan Family so we want to preserve that."

Garry Paskwietz | email

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