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Richmond Times Dispatch (Virginia)


Those construction fences in the large car lot adjacent to the Robins Center aren't there for renovation of the parking spaces.

The University of Richmond in January began gutting much of the Robins Center's ground floor, the first phase of a $7 million project that will deliver a new football locker room, a new sports medicine area, a new strength-and-conditioning setup, a new equipment room, a new men's lacrosse locker room and new men's and women's coaches' locker rooms.

"To say it's a remodel is really not to do it justice. It's a complete overhaul," said John Hardt, Richmond's vice president and director of athletics. "You'll notice the football piece right away because it's such a big part of it, but there are a bunch of dominoes that sequentially improve (facilities) and touch every one of our programs."

Project planning and fundraising started years before Hardt's Jan. 1 arrival from Bucknell, where he was director of athletics.

"My first week on the job, I think I was greeted by the sounds of jackhammers and demolition," Hardt said.

The project will be completed in phases, with a July 1 ready date for the football locker room as well as the sports medicine and strength-and-conditioning areas, according to David Walsh, the school's deputy AD. A few months later, the remaining improvements are scheduled to be done.

UR will have what it's calling the Student-Athlete Performance Center. For now, all there is to see is a vast construction zone, artists' renderings and diagrams showing what's coming. Spiders' coaches look ahead and see improved facilities that will make daily experiences for their student-athletes better, and a major recruiting boost as a sign of firm commitment.

In football, the project will help Richmond keep up with James Madison and William & Mary. Those schools have buildings dedicated to their FCS programs. The size of UR's football locker room will grow considerably, as will areas devoted to sports medicine, athletic training and strength and conditioning. Some Robins Center features, such as a dance studio, were relocated to other buildings to make room.

Football coach Russ Huesman said the project had an effect on the recruitment of incoming prospects who saw the plans. Among the upgrades will be the addition of multiple flat-screen TVs in the locker room.

"I think it's going to serve all of our programs really well, but obviously with football being the biggest program down (on the ground floor), they have the biggest space requirements, and we're finally able to provide them with space that's comparable to what you'd see at other FCS and championship-level programs," Hardt said.

The Robins Center upstairs arena underwent a $17-million renovation in 2013, and renovations of some Olympic sports locker rooms and offices were recently completed.

The Robins Center opened in 1972. There have been numerous renovations of various areas through the years, but nothing this extensive and outside of the original arrangement on the ground floor. (804) 649-6233 @RTDjohnoconnor

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February 27, 2018


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