Work Continues Apace on Anderson Athletic and Recreation Complex as Fall Teams Move in

Work continues in a fast-paced but carefully measured manner to finish the Anderson Athletic and Recreation Complex in time to open the new facility.

Crews from Opus Design Build and its subcontractors, along with many St. Thomas staff members, worked long hours last week in the $52 million, 180,000-square-foot complex, and they had plenty of company as fall sports athletes began pre-season practices.

Football coach Glenn Caruso and his staff held the first practice on Sunday, Aug. 15, for about 130 players. Soccer players from the men’s and women’s teams showed up Wednesday and Thursday, and volleyball players arrived on campus last weekend.

“Everybody who goes through the athletic and recreation complex is thrilled with it,” said Jane Canney, vice president for student affairs. “I can hardly wait for the entire student population to arrive and get the opportunity to see – and use! – the building.”

The Tommie-purple scoreboard is moved into position high above the "parquet" floor in Schoenecker Arena.

The Tommie-purple scoreboard is moved into position high above the "parquet" floor in Schoenecker Arena. (Click picture for larger view.)

Among those taking tours of the complex last week were members of the Board of Trustees’ Executive Committee. “This is incredible – just incredible,” said committee chair Burt Cohen during a tour on Thursday. “What a beautiful building!”

“It’s amazing all of this has happened in only 14 months,” said Gene Frey, another trustee, referring to a construction schedule that began in June 2009 with the demolition of Schoenecker Arena, Coughlan Field House and Foley Theater. “Everybody has done a wonderful job.”

Cohen, Frey and other trustees even peaked in on a film session that Caruso was holding with players in the football locker room. Athletic director Steve Fritz pointed out one special feature: a digital “countdown clock” to the first game Sept. 4 at St. Norbert, with days, hours, minutes and even seconds ticking off to the opening kickoff.

As impressed as the trustees were with the building’s many new features, they also applauded the care that has been taken to preserve the past.

The front doors to old O’Shaughnessy Hall, which was razed in March, are set into a wall along the glass-filled second-floor corridor, just inside the east entrance. The doors will be flanked by displays, including trophies and memorabilia, which celebrate St. Thomas’ rich athletic history. At the west end of the corridor will be the Athletic Hall of Fame room. The President’s Suite, which will be used for receptions and events, is on the third floor overlooking the football field, and guests will walk on a wooden floor “transplanted” from Schoenecker Arena.

Much work remains to be done over the next two weeks – everything from filling the swimming pool in the aquatic center with two feet of water each day to finishing the new seating veranda on the east side of Palmer Field.

“We’re getting there, piece by piece,” said Greg Swanson, an Opus superintendent, who has about 35 workers taking care of all of those details. “We’ll get done!”

The building has many components, including:

Aquatic center. The swimming area, described as “wicked fast” by coach Tom Hodgson, is 25 yards long and 25 meters wide with eight racing lanes that are eight feet wide. One-meter and three-meter diving boards are perched above the 14-foot-deep diving well, and the deck has a shower and heated floor to keep divers warm. A 10-foot by 16-foot video display panel will provide easy viewing for up to 360 spectators on the second and third levels at the north end of the center.

Basketball and volleyball arena. In addition to the center-hung scoreboard, there is a 10-foot by 16-foot video display panel for the 2,000 spectators who will sit on two levels. They will be able to clearly hear the public address announcer, thanks to 36 Bose speakers. The maple floor has been laid in “parquet” style, along the lines of what Boston Celtics fans see in their NBA arena.

Field house. The 200-meter track encircles four basketball, tennis and volleyball courts, with ceiling-retractable netting to separate the courts. Baseball and softball teams will have ample room for winter practices, and protective barriers can be lowered from the ceiling for batting cages and throwing sports like discus. Another 10-foot by 16-foot video display panel will keep athletes and spectators up to date on everything during competition.

Workout and training areas. The first-floor cardiovascular room has 80 pieces of equipment such as treadmills and stationary bicycles, as well as five flat-panel screens for viewing. The adjoining weight room has more than 60 pieces of equipment, including 10 power stations. Across the hall, two aerobics rooms will allow activities such as aerobics, yoga, Pilates, spinning and dance classes.

Locker rooms and trainer’s room. The football, volleyball, and men’s and women’s basketball teams have separate locker rooms on the first floor, under the field house. There also are locker rooms for coaches, students, faculty, staff and visiting teams, a spacious trainer’s room with hot and cold whirlpools, and a golf simulation training center.

Offices, classrooms and laboratories. The Athletic Department has third-floor offices for coaches and administrators overlooking Palmer Field. One floor below are offices, a conference room, and biomechanics, exercise physiology and computer labs for the Health and Human Performance Department. There is a classroom on the first floor.

And everywhere you go, you will see purple – lots of purple. Tommie purple!