By Rob Moseley
Rendering courtesy of SRG Partnership
The latest cutting edge facility enhancement for Oregon athletics is designed to improve performance for all UO student-athletes, while honoring the legacy of their most distinguished recent colleague.
On Thursday, the university’s Board of Trustees was presented with documentation of the proposed Marcus Mariota Sports Performance Complex. The enhancement to 29,000 square feet of the Casanova Center’s first floor would refurbish the equipment room while transforming existing locker room and storage space into a state-of-the-art sports science facility.
If approved at next week’s board meeting, construction would begin in January 2016, with the goal of being completed by Sept. 15, 2016. The project would be a gift from Phil and Penny Knight, and was named for Oregon’s Heisman Trophy winning quarterback.
“Thanks to the incredible generosity of Phil and Penny Knight and their commitment to the University of Oregon, we’ll be able to enhance our total commitment to the student-athlete experience with another world-class facility,” UO athletic director Rob Mullens said. “Marcus is the epitome of a student-athlete, and the Marcus Mariota Sports Performance Complex will be an outstanding tribute to his legacy.”
The project will transform the first floor of the Casanova Center’s east side, nearest to Autzen Stadium. Most dramatically, the southeast corner, which currently houses overflow storage of equipment and a locker room, will be converted into a sparkling, state-of-the-art sports science center.
The project manager and members of UO staff made several fact-finding trips over the last year, domestically and internationally, to gather information on possible features for the new complex. It will include areas for both active recovery (stretching, foam-rolling) and passive recovery (therapy, rest pods) as well as new diagnostic equipment.
“The facility is really based on trying to objectively measure things we currently measure subjectively, as well as provide resources we currently don’t have that we know are important for recovery,” said UO director of athletic medicine Dr. Greg Skaggs, who joined two of the fact-finding trips, one that took him to NASA as well several sports science institutes in the United States and Australia.
Among the new equipment will be 3D motion capture technology, to replace the subjective “functional movement screen” that Oregon and other athletic departments use to measure things like range of motion and identify possible inefficiencies. There will also be a neurocognitive center, which in part will help diagnose and treat concussion symptoms.
The sports science center’s operation will necessitate two full-time staff positions, one of which the Ducks actually created several years ago. The position of sports science coordinator was recently filled by Hugh Fullagar after his predecessor left to join Chip Kelly with the Philadelphia Eagles.
Fullagar is a native of Australia, where the Australian Institute of Sports was founded in 1981. The country has been on the leading edge of sports science, in particular since breaking ground in the field to maximize its showing at the 2000 Summer Olympics in Sydney. One of the new UO facility’s most eye-catching features, a boxing ring, is utilized in training by many Australian rules football teams, project organizers discovered.
The idea is to use elements like shadow boxing and hitting a heavy bag to enhance cardio workouts; athletes won’t actually be sparring against each other. “These guys train so hard, all year long,” Skaggs said. “Part of the attraction is just that it will break up the monotony – give them another modality that they would view as fun, to keep them in shape.”
Across a new public lobby from the sports science center will be the expanded equipment room, which will be “much more functional” for UO director of equipment operations Aaron Wasson and his staff, he said. The equipment room will now formally fill space previously occupied by the old football locker room in the Casanova Center’s northeast corner — which recently has been used for overflow equipment storage.
“At this point, over the last few years we’ve been working out of four or five different storage areas,” Wasson said. “This will allow us to streamline our operation and get all the Nike product under one roof.”
The new space will also allow the equipment staff to feature Oregon’s wide array of jerseys, cleats and such in more attractive environment when recruits visit. Plans call for an “athlete fitting room” stocked with everything available to Duck athletes.
“Our vision is for them to walk into a Niketown-like atmosphere, with a lot of energy,” Wasson said. “It’ll be a showcase area, and a much more efficient way for recruits and our recruiting staff to feature our innovative equipment.”