Tony Sanchez has said since his first day on the job that one of the most important items on the football program’s rebuilding checklist is erecting a new practice space. On Tuesday, the athletic department took a huge step toward accomplishing that goal, announcing plans for a brand-new, state-of-the-art facility that could be up and running by the spring of 2018.
Thanks to a $10-million donation from the Fertitta family—the single largest monetary gift in the history of UNLV athletics—the Rebels were able to firm up plans and unveil early renderings of the “Fertitta Football Complex” at a Tuesday press conference.
The 73,000-square-foot facility will be built behind the fields at Rebel Park, the football team’s current practice space. The final bill is expected to run between $24-26 million, with the Fertittas’ gift bringing the fundraising total up to $16 million so far.
Athletic director Tina Kunzer-Murphy said she expects to break ground sometime in the spring of 2017, and that the construction should take 8-10 months. That means the complex could be ready for action in early 2018.
The computer renderings are pretty amazing. The two-story complex will overlook the practice fields, and the building will be a one-stop shop for players and recruits. The facility will be outfitted with a medical center, an academic center, locker rooms, a cafeteria, a nutrition bar, a game room, a theater, coaches’ offices, meeting rooms and even a barber shop.
Kunzer-Murphy said Sanchez was intimately involved in the design stage and added some of the facility’s finer touches.
“This is Tony’s baby,” she said.
A few quick thoughts on the announcement:
Sanchez the builder
When Sanchez was hired, I posited that his long history as a program builder would make him a good fit for the UNLV job, which required someone willing to work around the clock at the stuff most coaches loathe—fundraising, building community support, infrastructure, etc. And less than two years into his tenure, he’s already brought the UNLV program into the new millennium and made Kunzer-Murphy look smart for thinking outside the box and hiring a “high school coach.” With the Fertitta Football Complex looking like a reality now, this is a huge feather in Sanchez’s cap and another example of his ability to build not just teams, but programs.
Football players spend more time in their team practice facility than anywhere else on campus, so that space is hugely important to them. That makes it doubly important during the recruiting process, when coaches have to pitch teenagers on spending the next four years of their life someplace that could be thousands of miles away from home.
Even for homegrown players, it’s a major factor. When Vegas Seven surveyed 16 anonymous Division I prospects from the Las Vegas area, 13 said a new practice facility would make them more interested in attending UNLV.
Sanchez has designs on recruiting at a higher level than the Rebels ever have, so he understood the importance of being able to offer a practice facility that’s better than the rest of the Mountain West and competitive with the top programs in the country. With the Fertitta complex, he’ll have it.
Buildings like the Fertitta complex are sleek and gleaming, but from a construction standpoint they’re not particularly complicated or difficult to build. That means there should be a relatively quick turnaround from Tuesday’s announcement to the ribbon-cutting ceremony (going off UNLV’s timeline, it could be up and running in as little as 14 months).
That means the Rebels should be able to build on the momentum generated by the cool fly-through video. Expect Sanchez to start using the renderings of the Fertitta complex for recruiting purposes immediately, and in the meantime, fundraising could see an uptick as the community and fan base get excited about the possibility of having legit Division I facilities on campus. If Sanchez and the Rebels can manage a winning record in 2016 and throw a bowl game appearance on top of it, the buzz around UNLV football could become deafening—a notion that would have been dismissed as ridiculous as little as two years ago.