Rutgers University has lagged behind athletically since joining the Big Ten Conference in 2014.
The New Jersey university has closed some of the gap with a sparkling new RWJBarnabas Health Athletic and Performance Center that increases the appeal of the basketball, gymnastics and wrestling teams.
Rutgers men’s basketball coach Steve Pikiell said that his program has already seen benefits from the $115 million facility in Piscataway, noting that several four-star recruits have been signed since the facility officially opened in September.
“This building has paid dividends already,” Pikiell said, according to Forbes. “It’s going to continue to in the future. … Part of the reason these kids wanted to come here and play is the upgrade of the facilities — state-of-the-art medical, state-of-the-art nutrition, state-of-the-art strength and conditioning, state-of-the-art locker room and the facility is available 24 hours a day, which has never been the case on this campus. … When you build a building like this, you’re really making a statement about how you treat your student-athletes.”
The 307,000 square-foot, four-story facility takes up 6.2 acres, providing separate practice areas for basketball, wrestling and gymnastics teams. There is also training and medical areas, a cafeteria, offices, locker rooms, a fan store and the Rutgers athletics hall of fame.
“They’re getting the best treatment to develop their bodies and minds that they could possibly get,” Pikiell said. “I have windows in my office which is a great thing too, different than the RAC over there. it makes a statement. We’re in the Big Ten, the best conference in the country and we’re building facilities on a par with that. It’s going to give us a real advantage in that area which we’ve never had in the past.”
The Scarlet Knights still play their games in the Louis Brown Athletic Center, known as the Rutgers Athletic Center. The 42-year-old RAC is located next to the new facility.
“I love the vibe of the RAC. I love how loud it gets,” junior guard Geo Baker said of the 8,000-seat venue, noting that the arena wasn’t ideal outside of game day. “The door is locked or someone else is practicing or the hoops aren’t up, we’ve got to break into the facility just to get shots up. Now we’ve got 24-hour access with our key cards. We can come whenever we want and that’s going to help us a lot. I don’t think I ever could have imagined a place like this. Just to be in here makes me want to work harder and I think it’s the same for everyone.”
The Rutgers men’s basketball team is 8-3 this season, coming off back-to-back home wins over Wisconsin and Seton Hall. The Scarlet Knights haven’t had a winning season since going 19-14 while a member of the Big East Conference in 2005-06.