UK Football

Kentucky's new practice facility evidence Stoops wants to stick around

Kentucky head coach Mark Stoops' involvement in developing and raising money for a new practice facility, set to open in 2016, speaks to his long-term plans for the Wildcats, colleagues say.
Kentucky head coach Mark Stoops' involvement in developing and raising money for a new practice facility, set to open in 2016, speaks to his long-term plans for the Wildcats, colleagues say. Herald-Leader

Even a week before Mark Stoops signed a lucrative contract extension at Kentucky, it was clear to insiders that he wanted to be in Lexington for a long time.

Just seeing how involved the head coach was in the development of and fundraising for the $45 million football practice facility near Commonwealth Stadium was a clear indicator.

"Coach's fingerprint is all over this deal," Kentucky high-performance coordinator Erik Korem said recently. "I've been around some coaches who have been involved in facilities, but he's really, really had a strong hand in how this is going to work, and he should, because we want to be here for a long time.

"Hopefully we're living in that building for a long while."

The indelible fingerprints of several other UK staffers also are on the plans for the building, which will break ground in January and open in spring 2016.

Korem and Dan Berezo witz, director of recruiting operations, played integral roles in how the building looks and flows, officials said.

For Korem, it was about developing a building that would become a foundation for the high-performance model that Stoops has implemented at Kentucky.

"It's not only going to look great and the players are going to enjoy being there, but it will help this whole developmental model go to another level," Korem said. "We wanted to create a place that we could really see this development model through."

One of the central areas of the practice facility will be a spacious, light-filled weight room, which Korem said would be "amazing from the standpoint of space, the way it feels."

A nearby high-performance analysis room eventually will house a laboratory that will enable in-house health screenings, drug tests and even blood panels.

There will be space nearby for nutritionist Monica Fowler, and areas for sports psychology and sports massage, Korem said.

The building, which will cover roughly 90,000 square feet, will be a place where players may do everything they need to do, except go to class.

"I could not be more pleased with the way it turned out," Stoops said last month when design plans were released. "I just think it's going to be a building that's very functional. We'll get great use out of it."

It will be quite the change from the current setup, in which players train in one building, eat in another and get tutoring on the other side of campus.

Really, what the building is most about is making life easier for the players, Korem said.

"It's a place that's really efficient for the athletes' time, because time is the one thing we all struggle with," the high-performance coach said. "Being able to do their academics in one place, train in one place, relax in one place really condenses time and, to me, really limits stress."

Coaches also hope the facility will be a big selling point for recruits, with lots of new graphics, video walls, mannequins that will show the various UK uniform combination options, and more.

"Overall, just very, very pleased," Stoops said last month. "It looks like a fantastic building. ... We'll have plenty of space, and it's really sleek and a good-looking building. I'm excited about it."

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