The coming upgrades in Auburn’s football facilities might not be as dramatic as the changes were when the Tigers moved into Beard-Eaves Memorial Coliseum or two decades later when they moved into their current facility, but AU officials are hoping their new digs will provide a substantial boost for the program.
At its February meeting, the university’s board of trustees approved the Football Performance Center project with an ambitious time line for getting it completed. The facility, which is estimated to cost a bit over $90 million, will be built on the site of the abandoned Wilbur Hutsell Track and Field and the former campus recreational tennis courts. It is a site that multiple Auburn football coaches have had their eyes on as a logical area for expansion.
If everything goes as planned, Coach Bryan Harsin and his Tigers will be able to move in by July of 2022. Harsin’s predecessor, Gus Malzahn, had been lobbying for the project for years, saying it is a major need for the program.
The overall facility is 233,400 square feet and the site is 12.5 acres. It is bounded by the comers of West Samford Avenue and Biggio Drive to the east and West Samford Avenue and Wire Road to the west. It is across Biggio Drive from the existing athletics complex, which will continue to be used for athletic department administration and by other AU intercollegiate teams.
The new football operations building will be 138,100 square feet. The current one opened with 88,000 square feet 32 years ago and additions have boosted it to 100,000 square feet.
The new indoor practice facility will cover 95,300 square feet. The one the Tigers are currently using, which was finished in 2011, has 92,000 square feet and features a full 100-yard field with both end zones. The project includes two outdoor natural turf practice fields, the same number the Tigers currently have available.
The facility will also include a weight room, a players locker room, coaches locker room, a sports medicine and nutrition area, team meeting rooms, football administration offices, equipment room, laundry and enhanced amenities for the players such as a deluxe lounge, game room and barbershop planned to be competitive with other programs around the Southeastern Conference and elsewhere.
When the football program headquarters moved from the cramped old fieldhouse north of the football stadium to the coliseum in 1969, that was a major upgrade. After out-growing their space in the coliseum in 1989 the Tigers moved across the street to the current football complex, which at the time was about as nice as it gets for that type of facility. Since then almost everybody in the SEC has built larger and nicer facilities.
There will still be programs out there that have nicer football complexes than the Tigers, but there won’t be many of them, something Auburn is counting on to provide a boost for recruiting and developing the players who can challenge for championships when competing in the most demanding league for college football.
Mark Murphy is the editor of Inside the Auburn Tigers magazine and newsletter