Rutgers breaks ground on multisport training facility
When Patrick Hobbs took the job as Rutgers’ athletic director last December, there was no question as to what his first priority was.
“Facilities, facilities, facilities,” he said, something his predecessor Julie Hermann had also preached but never fully committed towards in her two and a half years in Piscataway.
But there Hobbs stood on the south side of the Rutgers Athletic Center Tuesday morning, leading the groundbreaking ceremony for a new multisport training facility just more than 11 months to the day of his official unveiling and 10 from the announcement of the R Big Ten Build Fundraising Initiative.
“One of the great things about athletics is that you have those moments, particularly in a game when you're on the sideline, where you feel that chill when something special is happening. I got that today when I came here and walked out to see the preparation and believe this is happening,” he said. “If you can't get emotional about a day like this, then you need to find something else to do. So you'll see me smiling all day long because this is real. This is an announcement that we intend to compete in the Big Ten and we intend to compete at a championship level. So this is a very emotional day and I will not come down from this high for a long time.”
The facility is officially named the RWJBarnabas Health Athletic Performance Center after an $18 million contribution to the R Big Ten Build from the largest hospital and medical network in New Jersey.
The partnership was made to continue the commitment of making New Jersey a better place to live through investing in the community, said President and Chief Executive Officer of RWJBarnabas Health Barry O. Ostrowsky.
The facility not only will provide a standalone venue for the men’s and women’s basketball, gymnastics and wrestling teams to practice outside of the RAC, but it will also help bring the State University and his alma mater to the forefront of sports medicine.
It will also provide a selling point to recruits and their parents, according to Hobbs, as the Knights will join their fellow Big Ten conference members in having a dedicated practice facility for their basketball programs.
“I hate to say it because it will make me sound like I'm 100 years old, but when I came to Rutgers, there was nothing up,” Ostrowsky said. “Now, when I come on campus and see what's happening, there's a special feeling ... Not everything should be "P" and "L" and balance sheet and return on investment. There has to be an emotional investment between partners to seek out the best for those who we serve."
It will be a while until the athletic programs can take full advantage of the facility — it’s not expected to be completed until July of 2019 — but that hasn't stopped head wrestling coach Scott Goodale, head men's basketball coach Steve Pikiell and head women's basketball coach C. Vivian Stringer from using it in their pitches to recruits.
"We knew the importance of a facility like that. To see this come to fruition and shovel the dirt, it makes me want to start building the building myself," Stringer said. "It’s a great time for all us in athletics but also certainly the state. We have to be so proud. It’s a state-of-the-art facility and one that long before an athlete would even consider a scholarship, they want to come and see this facility. It’s a proud moment for all of us.”
When day will come when the RWJBarnabas Health Athletic Performance Center will open its doors, but it'll remain the first step of a long journey Hobbs embarked on when he took his job as the figure head of Rutgers Athletics. And until he reaches his goal of making the Knights a premier athletic program as a whole, he'll be looking nowhere but ahead.
"Urgency is the word. We have to continue to be out there to raise money," he said. "There is an urgency around everything we do here in athletics ... We're in the toughest division in the best conference in the United States, and obviously you've seen some of the results. We need to change those results. The way we do that is by recruiting great coaches, supporting the coaches you have and (providing) them with facilities they can be successful with. So I treat every day with a sense of urgency."