EVANSTON, Ill. – On a sun-splashed spring morning scripted by the local chamber of commerce, Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald hops into his Lincoln Navigator and flips on his Under Armour sunglasses. He’s driving from Northwestern’s current antiquated football facility to its resplendent new one, a mile expanse from the program’s musty past to its glistening future.
Fitzgerald tells the story of his favorite reaction to the new $270 million athletic facility, Ryan Fieldhouse and Walter Athletics Center, which opens next month. The facility looks as if a rendering from “The Jetsons” dropped on the shores of Lake Michigan, with 45-foot floor-to-ceiling windows that run the expanse of the entire practice field overlooking the water. The father of a recruit called it “The Infinity Pool of Indoors,” a nod to the honeymoon-caliber panorama. It’s an apt nickname for a building that percolates with possibilities as vast as the views. “Why do you need waterfalls inside,” Fitzgerald says while chuckling, “when you have waves outside?”
Fitzgerald flips on a construction hat, zips up a florescent yellow vest and practically skips through a two-hour hard hat tour for Yahoo Sports.
Fitzgerald is entering his 23rd season as a player, assistant or head coach at Northwestern, all of which have been housed in a facility that would be considered mediocre in the MAC. With the move to Ryan Fieldhouse, Fitzgerald is now experiencing the aesthetic upgrade equivalent of Shawshank to Santorini or Section 8 to 90210.
The fact that Northwestern, which for decades alternated between being a Big Ten punch line and punching bag, now leads the college football facility race can be considered one of the biggest upsets in the history of college athletics. When the Wildcats move in next month, they’ll have the nicest athletic facility in all of college football. The comparisons are a bit askew, as five other varsity teams will also occupy the 425,000 square feet of the entire athletic center. It will serve as the hub for the department’s administration, medical care and academic services and also host intramurals and campus events.
But I’ve been in virtually every football building of note in America, witnessing all the Ferrari leather, barber chairs and nap rooms from Clemson to Eugene to Tuscaloosa. In terms of size, spectacle and spending, Northwestern has sprinted past the biggest names in the facilities arms race.
Read the entire article at Yahoo Sports.