UK Football

How exactly do you move 200 Wildcats? Very carefully

Kentucky’s new practice facility, at right, was made ready for move-in this week as the new practice fields drank in a dose of moisture.
Kentucky’s new practice facility, at right, was made ready for move-in this week as the new practice fields drank in a dose of moisture.

There are smiling faces in little frames all around the smiling face that has greeted visitors at the Nutter Training Center for more than 14 years.

Sandy Griffin, a longtime staff support associate for Kentucky football, carefully wrapped each frame and placed it in a box headed across the street to her new desk at the new football training facility.

“It’s finally happening,” she said as visitors moved in and out of the main lobby with moving day fast approaching.

Griffin’s belongings fit neatly in a box or two headed to the $45 million practice facility adjacent to Commonwealth Stadium.

But it’s not so simple to coordinate a move for the other 180 or so people that spend their days at the Nutter Training Center.

It’s a carefully calculated, coordinated move that’s been in the works for nearly a year.

The family pictures, trinkets and boxes are the easy part.

There’s also equipment for 120 football players. There are computer systems, sports video equipment and stationery in stacks with new addresses ready to send out to recruits.

Boxes upon boxes of athletic tape have been stacked in the middle of the training room waiting to make their journey.

“They’ve gotten them delivered, but they don’t want to put them away because they want to put them away over there,” explained Marc Hill, executive associate director of athletics at UK, who helped coordinate the big move, which includes players, 30 full-time staff members and 30 student staffers.

Much of the labor associated with moving it all from one spot to the next has fallen on those student workers, who just this week packed box after box carefully onto the trailer that UK uses to transport equipment to road games.

That equipment truck is the full-time moving truck this week along with another big rig donated by a booster, which is scheduled to arrive this weekend.

“Essentially we’ve got our own moving company because we have our own tractor trailer and our own workforce,” Hill said. “A lot of schools hire moving companies, but I think we’ve planned enough ahead and we have enough resources.”

The most difficult part of the move so far has been the logistics of getting into a facility that is still under construction in some places.

“What rooms are ready when, and when can we move stuff in? That’s where we’re at right now,” Hill said Wednesday. “You can’t move anything in until you have occupancy. You have everybody wanting to move stuff in and now we have to determine what needs to get in there first without everybody stepping on everybody’s toes.”

Some advance planning

Remember that massive surplus sale before the Blue-White Spring Game where fans were able to purchase old UK gear at a deeply discounted rate?

That was all a part of a bigger plan by UK Athletics to move as little as possible into the shiny, new digs.

“Every family does it,” Hill said. “You have a garage sale before you sell your house, which is essentially what we did, decluttered before we had to pack up and move.”

Kentucky also did some forward thinking when it came to hauling equipment and other heavy loads.

In general, UK replaces furniture, computers, TV monitors and other things every 3-4 years, Hill said. So they put off ordering much of that stuff last year knowing they wanted all new items in the new facility. And it would keep them from having to relocate even more stuff.

“Not only are we moving into a new house, but a lot of it is new furnishings,” Hill said. “So everything globally, all the desk furniture, all the televisions, all the monitors with the exception of 4-5 training room computers are new. So that helps.”

While the coaching staff was on vacation this summer, campus staff coupled new computer processing units with the coaches’ old monitors and keyboards and installed new monitors and keyboards at the new facility.

So when coaches move in this weekend, they just have to pick up their processing units and plug them in to the new equipment in their new offices.

Kentucky’s special teams and inside linebackers coach Matt House was the Cats’ most recent hire after spring practice. In June, he recalled Coach Mark Stoops walking by his office and seeing all of the unpacked boxes.

“He said, ‘Keep ’em packed,’” laughed House, who said he didn’t bother putting pictures on the wall or anything like that. “Just the bare bones.”

House will be unpacking those boxes finally this week as he moves into his new office.

Stoops admitted he’s had a little extra help with his own part of the move.

“That’s one of the perks of the job,” the head coach joked with media Thursday before one of his many preseason speaking engagements. “We’ve got some people in there wrapping it up right now.”

The weight room, which will go from 9,000 square feet at the Nutter Center to more than 15,000 square feet at the new place, will get all new weights and training equipment, which were delivered and set up recently.

The only exceptions were a couple of cardio machines that director of performance Corey Edmond was able to get a better deal on if he had them delivered by an earlier date.

On Wednesday, many of those stair climbers were hauled in the back of a white pickup truck with student workers holding the precious cargo in place for the short trip.

(The old training equipment will remain in place for the building’s new occupants, which include track and field, golf and gymnastics.)

Perhaps the most complicated part of the move falls on the sports video staff run by Christian Fiero. They also waited a year to get new servers and have had to make sure that all of the game and player footage as well as other coaching requests are ready when the staff starts working Monday morning.

“Christian has a long weekend ahead of him,” Hill said. “There’s going to be glitches Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, especially on the technology piece.”

The new facility has storage units on rails in several places like the recruiting work room, equipment rooms, storage rooms and elsewhere. So once the things get where they need to go, it will be a much more efficient system.

But, of course, there’s the whole getting there.

As for the players, they got to see their new home away from home Thursday morning as a part of a private tour. They were greeted at the shiny, new doors by UK Athletics Director Mitch Barnhart and President Eli Capilouto.

“It was a lot of fun,” Stoops said. “We all feel very proud and very happy for the players. They’ve been through a lot. They’ve worked hard. They’re good kids and we promised them that, a lot of them, when we were recruiting them. To see it come to fruition, get in there, it’s surreal.”

As planned, the players will finish out their summer workouts before joining their coaches in the new facility at the start of fall camp on Aug. 4.

The new training center is part of a bigger cultural change for UK football, Stoops said.

“We need these types of facilities for our players, and, yes, I do think it will make a difference,” he said. Players “do feel good about it. They know that we’re committed to giving them the best and putting them in the best position we can to make them successful.”

Jennifer Smith: 859-231-3241, @jenheraldleader

Season opener

Southern Mississippi at Kentucky

When: Sept. 3, 7:30 p.m.


Related stories from Lexington Herald Leader