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Tennessee State opens doors to indoor facility
It was sunny and comfortable with a gentle breeze blowing across Tennessee State’s campus Saturday. So why was the school’s football team inside?
The players and coaches were showing off the school’s new indoor practice facility to their fans.
Several hundred showed up to check out the $3.7 million pre-engineered metal structure with an 80-yard synthetic turf playing field and meeting rooms.
Construction was completed earlier this summer and the Tigers have already practiced twice in the building during bad weather.
“When I heard we were getting an indoor facility I hoped for the best, but I have to admit I never expected something this nice,” senior quarterback Jeremy Perry said.
The 60,750-square foot building with a 70-foot ceiling sits behind the north end zone of Hale Stadium in what used to be part of a parking lot.
The facility is equipped with a heating and cooling system and includes an 8,000-square foot area that houses restrooms and four meeting rooms.
“It’s real nice and I know the new coach at Vanderbilt (James Franklin) already mentioned something about us having one and them not having one,” said 1980 TSU graduate Earley Frierson. “That’s not usually the case. Everything Vanderbilt has is usually a lot nicer than what we have.”
Franklin told reporters last week that Vanderbilt, a Football Bowl Subdivision team, was inconvenienced by not having an indoor practice facility like TSU’s.
TSU is one of six Football Championship Subdivision schools that has an indoor facility. The others are Dartmouth, Maine, Northern Iowa, Penn and Youngstown State.
Funding for the facility came from state money and an increase in student activity fees.
The football team will share the facility with some of the school’s other sports teams and its marching band.
“Because of where we’re situated here on our campus with a serious marching band and with us having some land-lock as far as having practice fields, this was something that was really needed,” said Athletics Director Teresa Phillips.
The meeting room area is still under construction and Phillips said a ticket office may also be placed there.
There are no locker rooms. Phillips said there is a plan to build a new fieldhouse with locker rooms and coaches offices next to the south end zone at Hale Stadium after the Army ROTC building located there is torn down, which is scheduled to be done by the 2012 season.
Coach Rod Reed said he looks forward to showing the facility to recruits he brings on campus.
“It’ll help big time in recruiting with us being only one of six FCS schools that have this,” Reed said. “The players are very pumped up about it. It’s got a comfortable surface; it’s much bigger than I ever anticipated it would be. We’ve been able to conduct two practices in here and both were very good practices.”
By Mike Organ, The Tennessean