First to team members and then to media, Georgia Tech revealed 8,100 square feet of recruit-attracting eye candy Tuesday.
From the functional – cabinets specifically made large enough for laptops, outfitted with power outlets and USB ports – to the technologically advanced – retinal scanners and “self-healing” laminate – the renovated Tech locker room was designed to woo prospects.
“That’s what I’m talking about,” offensive lineman Will Bryan said. “Just little details, just stuff that you wouldn’t even think you need it until you have it, and you’re, like, ‘Oh, man, yeah, I need that.’”
To this point, the Yellow Jackets had been slumming it with a locker room built in 2003. The space, beneath the north stands of Bobby Dodd Stadium, was functional, but worn and not particularly attractive. In the battle to win the allegiance of recruits, coach Paul Johnson said Tuesday that he knew a renovation was a priority as soon as he was hired in December 2007. He had been campaigning for it long before the arrival of athletic director Todd Stansbury in the fall of 2016.
It became a reality when an anonymous donor stepped forward to cover the $4.5 million cost. Construction began in January. Only a few punch-list items remain as the Jackets, who finished summer workouts Tuesday, now point to the start of preseason camp Aug. 3.
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All 116 lockers have a 15-inch digital video screen that can be used as a nameplate or display highlights. Storage spaces for pads, cleats and helmets are ventilated. There are 20 large-screen TVs mounted overhead. Off the locker room is a drink station, complete with a machine that makes Powerade slushies.
A hot tub big enough for 11 people and a cold tub large enough for 18 is separated from the locker area by a floor-to-ceiling glass wall. The tubs’ water is maintained with an ultraviolet filtration system, as no power-conference team should have to prepare to defeat Clemson while distracted by the stench of chlorine.
The place dazzles and now puts Tech on a level with ACC competitors.
“We don’t want to come off as ungrateful, but it’s just like, we know what we had before and we understand that this is a step in the right direction for this program, knowing that it’s such a good recruiting tool,” defensive lineman Desmond Branch said.
Hardly a detail was overlooked. One of the first elements of the locker room to greet visitors is a “swag display” – a cluster of eight, hexagonally shaped, brightly lit cases built into a wall that will feature the Jackets’ Adidas-designed gear.
As media toured the locker room Tuesday afternoon, the lighting in the room was adjusted to the setting for recruiting visits. It’s dimmer, all the more for branding like the interlocking “GT” hung from the ceiling in the center of the room to sparkle.
“I think it has the ‘wow’ factor, which you look for in recruiting,” Johnson said. “It’s going to be very usable for our team. We got a lot of their input when we were designing it, making plans, and I think the contractors and everybody involved did a great job with it. It’s certainly a showplace.”
The lockers were made with a material called nanoLam, which is scratch-resistant, anti-microbial and can repair scratches with a “magic eraser” or a heated iron. Bryan was willing to stomach the lack of such amenities when he made his commitment as a high-school junior in 2013. Others may not.
“That’s big time,” he said. “Because guys, that’s what they see. They come here, they visit, they look at the locker rooms, they look at the facilities you have.”
Players were summoned Monday for a team meeting Tuesday morning. Unsure of the purpose, Bryan wondered if they had gotten themselves in trouble, but hoped that it would be the unveiling of the locker room. Bryan said that team members were “exuberant” and likened it to Christmas. Johnson said that senior wide receiver Brad Stewart joked with him that he wanted to redshirt this season so he could have another year to enjoy the opulence.
“A place like this locker room is not going to all of the sudden change recruiting, but it’s going to help a great deal,” Johnson said. “First impressions are important, and when you walk in here, this looks like something you would expect to see at Georgia Tech.”
Johnson praised Stansbury for understanding the importance of this project. Stansbury also drove a roughly half-million dollar renovation of the football lobby, a room that now glitters with bowl trophies and Tech branding.
With a brand-new locker room scratched off the list, Johnson may now turn his attention to an updating of the weight room and a new academic center.
“You’ve got to be doing something all the time, because if you’re standing still, you’re falling behind,” Johnson said.