I’m absolutely knocked on my ass by the pictures of Northwestern’s new lakeside practice facility. I mean, honestly, look at this thing:
C’mon, man, you’re supposed to practice football in that thing? I’d rather set up a table at midfield and have a nice, five-course meal while the golden-hour light filters through the windows. But Northwestern’s football program will not be wining and dining, they’ll be working to get better, now that they finally have an indoor practice facility.
When it was announced last year, it looked too good to be true.
And it’s part of a broader athletics complex which will open in August that costs a pretty penny to boot at $260 million.
As the most expensive practice facility in the Big Ten, few, if any, projects compare to the size and scope of NU’s new lakefront complex, and the new buildings will allow athletes to practice on campus rather than 1.5 miles to the west near Ryan Field. The next-most expensive practice facilities project in the conference is unfolding at the University of Minnesota, which announced a $190 million plan in 2013.
Tennessee, Baylor and Washington love to brag that their stadiums are on the water and fans can sail-gate. But The Wildcats get to go to work everyday on Lake Michigan’s beach.
Like Alabama’s waterfalls, Texas’ locker TVs, and Oregon’s Nike-plex, the price tags remind us that the facilities race in college sports is a byproduct of one thing: The fact that the money is there to do what so many have asked for for years. If the Power 5 schools in particular wanted to pay college athletes above tuition and full cost of attendance, then they could. Since they don’t, that money has to go somewhere whether it’s private funds raised by the school or a surplus thanks to something like increased ticket revenue.
NU will show off this beacon of college sports excess to recruits for decades — and they should — but don’t forget the other side of the coin. If you’re gonna use the money on facilities, it might as well be on a beach I guess.