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CLEMSON - During the month of January, Clemson ascended to the top of the college football mountain in more ways than one.
The first was defeating Alabama to win the second national championship in school history, but the second came just a few weeks later with the completion and opening of the Allen N. Reeves Football Complex, a state-of-the-art football operations center now considered the best in the country.
The $55 million, 142,000-square-foot building is unlike anything ever built before for a college football team.
"We're very proud of how it turned out," said Thad Turnipseed, Clemson's assistant athletic director of football recruiting and external affairs, who oversaw the construction of the new complex. "I think we set the standard for a long time."
Clemson's motto is "best is the standard," and Clemson's coaches believe the new building lives up to that billing.
"In this facility, I honestly don't know what else you could want," said Brandon Streeter, Clemson's quarterbacks coach and recruiting coordinator. "It checks so many boxes."
The complex includes enhanced versions of all the elements one would expect. The meeting rooms include stadium seating and large video screens. A large training room includes a hydrotherapy area and overlooks the practice fields. The dining hall includes a full kitchen.
Clemson's new football complex also includes elements one might not expect, but Turnipseed says everything has a purpose.
The barber shop, nap room, bowling alley, golf simulator and slide won't improve football or academic performance, but they're all part of the player experience Clemson strives to provide.
"We knew we had to take care of the player," Turnipseed said. "We knew we had to be a functional building. We knew it needed to be a fun building. It needed to be a different building."
The most unique aspect of the new complex, Turnipseed believes, is the outdoor village. The 11/2-acre outdoor area includes a basketball court, a putt-putt course, a sand volleyball court, a Wiffle Ball field and fire pits, among other features.
"When we look back in two years, we feel like players are going to love that village," Turnipseed said. "The ambiance out there is just incredible. So I think when weather accommodates, that's going to be the most exciting part for us."
Because the new operations center is next to the Tigers' existing practice fields and indoor practice facility, it will improve the team's efficiency. Instead of shuttling to and from Memorial Stadium between meetings and practices, Clemson will be able to conduct all of its preparation in one place.
"We literally come right out of our meetings, hopefully just pop right down the slide, right out onto the practice field, and we're going to be ready to go," said Clemson coach Dabo Swinney.
For his players, Swinney doesn't want the new building to be just an office; he wants it to be a home. With amenities like the outdoor village and the indoor players' lounge, Clemson foresees its players spending much of their free time in the building alongside their teammates, while they are also welcome to bring their friends.
"I think our players will be around here more, because there's obviously so much to do, and that means we get to interact with them even more," Streeter said. "And I do think that one of the main reasons that we have been so successful is because we have a great relationship with our players."
Of all the benefits the new complex provides, its biggest impact could come in recruiting.
Clemson hosted some of the nation's top high school juniors in the freshly completed building for its Junior Day on Jan. 28, and received commitments from two four-star recruits (South Pointe wide receiver Derion Kendrick and Lewisville defensive tackle Josh Belk) within 24 hours.
The feedback Clemson has received from recruits on the new facility has been all positive so far, Turnipseed said.
Swinney and his staff believe the success of their program is about people. If they can get a recruit on campus, they are confident they can land a commitment. They don't believe their facilities are their No. 1 selling point, but they do expect the new complex to attract more recruits to Clemson from all over the country.
"If we're going to (recruit) the Dabo way, we're only going to bring in higher quality character individuals, but your pot of players to pull from are smaller," Turnipseed said. "We've got to get not only the best quality player to win the national championship but the best character player. So what this project's going to do is have people come from further away to see Clemson."
In the arms race of college athletics, it's inevitable that another school will build something bigger and better before too long. The innovations within Clemson's complex - perhaps even the slide - will eventually become commonplace among the facilities of college football powerhouses.
That could eventually lead Clemson to make additions or renovations to the Allen N. Reeves Football Complex. Clemson is confident, though, that the new complex will be the home of its football program for decades to come.
"The Tigers, they're going to always play in Death Valley but they're going to always prepare to play right here," Swinney said in the new complex. "This isn't going to be something in five years we're building a new facility. This is where the Tigers are going to be forever.
"We may come back 30 years, there will be a new head coach here and maybe they built a third level or added on, who knows, but this is where they're going to be. And it's pretty cool to know that my grandkids will be able to come back here and see something that we were a part of building. It's special."
Follow Dan Hope on Twitter @Dan_Hope.
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February 7, 2017